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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 8 March 2021

South Africa's president urges wealthy countries to share Covid vaccines with poorer nations

At World Economic Forum, Cyril Ramaphosa highlights dangers of ‘hoarding’ and ‘vaccine nationalism’ amid pandemic

A healthcare worker at a temporary coronavirus ward in Soweto in South Africa. AFP
A healthcare worker at a temporary coronavirus ward in Soweto in South Africa. AFP

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has accused rich countries of hoarding Covid-19 vaccines at the expense of the world’s poorest people.

Mr Ramaphosa, chairman of the African Union, warned on Tuesday that the global fight against the pandemic could be prolonged if “vaccine nationalism” continues unabated.

He said countries that had acquired vaccine supplies that went “far beyond” the size of their population should donate excess stock to poor nations.

“We are concerned about vaccine nationalism,” he told the World Economic Forum, which was held virtually this year.

“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines from manufacturers and developers. Some countries have gone beyond and acquired four times what their countries need.”

“We are saying ‘release the vaccines you have hoarded’.”

The mutation of the virus first identified in South Africa has caused havoc in the nation of 58 million.

The second wave of the disease in November led to a significant increase in infections through to early January, although the number of cases has started to fall recently.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the World Economic Forum. WEF
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the World Economic Forum. WEF

Research suggests the new strain could be resistant to existing immunity among those who have previously been infected with Covid.

Several countries, including the UK and US, have imposed travel restrictions on arrivals from South Africa.

Mr Ramaphosa didn’t mention the new variant in his address but said the disease had created more inequality in his country.

The African Union has acquired 270 million vaccination doses from manufacturers, while the World Health Organisation’s Covax initiative will bring 600 million to the continent’s poorer countries, he said.

The supply will fall well short of inoculation for all of Africa’s 1.2 billion residents given that two doses need to be administered for each person.

In contrast, the UK has access to 357 million doses from seven vaccine developers, according to the government.

Mr Ramaphosa said the world was not safe “if some countries are vaccinating and others are not”.

“It must not be something that special countries or certain countries have on their own to the exclusion of others,” he said.

Updated: January 26, 2021 06:00 PM

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