COVAX facility falters, as third wave ravages Africa

by | Jul 26, 2021 | COVID 19 | 0 comments

Hosia Mviringi

COVAX, the United Nations World Health Organisation’s (UNWHO) initiative for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines across the globe has struggled to acquire vaccines for distribution to Africa’s vulnerable countries.

COVAX, which is co-administered by GAVI, CEPI and UNICEF aims simply vaccines to at least 20 percent of the world population as and when vaccines are made available.

In Africa COVAX, has partnered with African Union’s Centre for Disease Control to coordinate procurement and distribution of vaccines to all member countries.

Through this initiative has a set target to acquire and distribute at least 800 million vaccine doses, but only 400 million doses have been accessed to date amid a proven reluctance by vaccine producing countries to export any vaccines to Africa until their populations are adequately vaccinated.

This came out on Thursday, July 1, 2021, in a virtual media briefing by the Africa Centre for Disease Control (ACDC), which was jointly addressed by its Director, Dr John Nkengasong and Mr Strive Masiyiwa who is the African Union Special envoy on Covid-19 response.
Mr Masiyiwa bemoaned the reluctance by European and American Vaccine manufacturers to put aside a certain portion of vaccines to serve Africa.

He could not hide his frustration with the donor community’s non-committal stance which he equated to a deliberate effort to sabotage Africa’s chances of coming out of this pandemic any time soon and to reduce casualties thence fro.
Like a child who cries for porridge at a neighbour’s house, Mr Strive Masiyiwa displayed Africa’s ideological and intellectual bankruptcy and desperation when he almost came to tears as he bemoaned widespread sabotage and reluctance by Western countries to spread the distribution of vaccines to African shores in time to save helpless poor populations.

“You can not tell us, on one hand, that you are going to give us the vaccines, while on the other hand you have not lifted restrictions on export of raw materials needed for the manufacture of vaccines. The United States has restrictions on exports of over 60 components required in the production of vaccines.
If there were to be an enquiry into this, how it all happened, surely we would find Covax culpable because we were misled,” said Mr Masiyiwa.

“We were led down the garden path. When we came to December 2020, we were made to believe that the whole world was coming together to purchase vaccines for Africa. But what we didn’t know was that we had been carolled into a little corner, while others ran off to secure vaccines.
That’s what Covax was supposed to have done for us,” mourned Mr Masiyiwa.

It is apparent from the foregoing that Covax, as a supposed vehicle for vaccine procurement and distribution to poor countries around the world including in Africa, has failed the world’s poorest and has contributed to an unprecedented loss of lives at the promise of cheap vaccines.

The question is, why should Africa continue to be a beggar to countries that have benefitted from African raw materials for time immemorial?
“This is a deliberate global architecture of unfairness,” fumed Mr Strive Masiyiwa. Let’s say we are in a village, and there is an outbreak of drought such that there won’t be enough bread.
Then all of a sudden the richest guys grab the baker and take control of production of bread such that we all now have to go to those guys and ask for a loaf of bread. That is the architecture that we currently have in the production and distribution of vaccines,” said Mr Masiyiwa.

Mr Masiyiwa, who has for long been a corporate maverick was given a rude awakening of the cut throat world of geopolitics.
What was supposed to be a businessman leading a prestigious attempt to enhance vaccine access on the continent, became the face of a pharmaceutical miscarriage.

The law of the jungle reincarnated. It is the survival of the fittest once again.
But if the Covax situation does not prompt introspection, then nothing will.
What is Africa`s claim to the production of vaccines?
It could be agreed that Africa is entirely at the mercy of capitalist yet erstwhile imperialist West.

What leverage, political, economic or otherwise, is there for Africa to arm-twist vaccine producing countries for the much needed benevolence? Answer is none.
However, this is not a revelation at all, because it has always been known that the West will and can never agree to share vaccines unless and until their whole populations had been vaccinated and saved from the pandemic.
The West will only donate excess production capacity to Africa, which will most likely come in the after-life for most vulnerable Africans.
It can only be ironic that Africa could be this naïve as to believe these dummy promises of non-existent vaccines.
Covax were stubborn, when the Chinese were in a good position to assist, they went to join a long queue in the West at Astra Zeneca and Mordena.

Only now, is there talk of Chinese vaccines under the facility.
This is so because the initial plan and goal of Covax was to hold African countries hostage while waiting for European and American vaccines which were still undergoing experimental phases.
This is besides the known Chinese manufacturing prowess and a proven track record for Chinese vaccines such as Sinopharm and Sinovac.
Struggling vaccines as Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer etc, were being primed to dominate the Covax basket and take over the multi-billion dollar African vaccine market.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe which had foresight and saw through the charade that was Covax is going ahead with its self-funded vaccine acquisition program, which has progressed smoothly since February 2021 when it was launched.
To date, Zimbabwe has hauled in a gigantic 5.5 million vaccine doses, mainly from the two dominant Chinese suppliers, Sinovac and Sinopharm.
A further 6.5 million doses have been paid for in full. This will take Zimbabwe’s tally to 12 million doses when it’s all been delivered
We stand to see if Covax will deliver on its promise to source and supply cheap vaccines to Africa.
In the next instalment, we shall look into who is Covax we will take a closer look into the political economy behind it.
For now, we wait to see to what extent the facility will contribute towards Africa’s victory against the Covid-19 scourge.