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Opinions of Sunday, 19 December 2021

Columnist: Nicholas Aderinto

Travel bans don’t save lives. Vaccines do

Coronavirus vaccine Coronavirus vaccine

African countries face increasing travel bans from outside the continent in the face of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron. However, travel bans have not shown much success in curtailing the pandemic. Travel bans don’t save lives. Vaccines do.

Only 10 per cent of the African continent has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In contrast, Europe, Asia and America have vaccinated 62 per cent, 72.4 per cent and 68.4 per cent of their populations, respectively. Only nine African countries met the World Health Organisation’s goal of vaccinating 10% of their citizens against COVID-19 by the end of September 2021. The WHO fixed the target as part of a more significant push to vaccinate at least 40% of the world’s population by the end of 2021. Unfortunately, four of the nine countries are among Africa’s smallest. This figure depicts how much Africa has fallen behind in its vaccination efforts.

Africa accounts for barely 1.6 % of worldwide vaccination. A combination of vaccine hesitancy and scarcity has resulted in a low vaccination rate. Even if vaccine hesitancy is a game-changer, vaccine availability is the biggest roadblock to vaccination on the continent. Vaccine hesitancy can be traced back to vaccine scarcity in many cases. When there is no vaccine available, the challenge of hesitation cannot be prioritised. Much of the worldwide vaccination effort has benefited wealthier countries. Over four billion COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed globally, with rich countries receiving 83% of the total.

The difference in vaccination efforts between low- and high-income countries is primarily due to high financial spending, health spending, and vaccine acquisition. Some 9.9 billion COVID-19 dosages have already been ordered ahead of the 10.9 billion doses planned to be manufactured by the end of the year. African countries have had to rely too heavily on initiatives such as COVAX Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC) and donations from developed-country surpluses. In May, COVAX was expected to supply 75.5 million COVID-19 pills to its African members. However, the strategy failed, and as of July, just 28.5 million doses had been administered.

Due to restrictions on vaccine availability, African leaders have been reliant on donations and bilateral agreements between global leaders and organisations. Even though many wealthy countries contributed through several of these agreements, the amounts were insufficient to close the vaccination gap.

In the face of this vaccine disparity, it is essential to remember that health is essential in society and even globally. This information distinguishes the effects of vaccine inequity and supports the argument for a worldwide immunisation campaign. Health, at all levels, has no colour, age, or national boundaries. The present pandemic has repeatedly demonstrated this.

Making the COVID-19 vaccine formula and production technologies available to underdeveloped countries is the most straightforward solution to vaccine inequity. The removal of access obstacles made possible by intellectual property rights will aid Africa’s efforts to produce vaccines locally. Governments and philanthropic organisations are already investing in increased vaccine production capacity. A long-term solution, on the other hand, will allow Africa to save its continent.

Vaccinating the entire world is a public good that will benefit everyone, regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic situation. This demands mobilising resources worldwide to ensure that every person eligible for vaccination has access to vaccines. The monetary contribution for vaccine manufacture that has already been gathered from countries and donors through pooled phototrophic initiatives is a good start toward ensuring that everyone has access to the vaccine.

More effort is required to ensure that this project fulfils its promises. These resources may not be sufficient to assure the distribution of vaccines to the world’s poorest countries, incredibly if the vaccine price is incorrectly priced.

As wealthy countries ramp up their vaccination efforts, care must ensure no one is left out. Until everyone is vaccinated, regardless of their status or location, the world remains at risk.

Aderinto is a Writing Fellow at the African Liberty