At least 250,000 people have died in Africa from COVID, almost 7,000 a day, and because of the scarcity of available vaccines, just 11% of the population has received two doses. Despite these dramatic numbers, the European Union is throwing away 55 million doses of the vaccine that are nearing expiration, after having donated just 30 million doses since the beginning of the year to the African continent.
In fact, only 8% of the vaccines produced by the EU, the world’s largest producer, have gone to the African continent, despite the commitments made at the beginning of the pandemic by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to make the vaccine a “global public good.”
Earlier this month, Oxfam and Emergency, both members of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, denounced the condition in which Africa finds itself: “Despite the rhetoric of a special relationship with Africa, the EU ― which is now the world’s biggest exporter of vaccines ― has prioritized selling vaccines made on EU soil for eye-watering prices to rich nations,” explained Sara Albiani, policy advisor for global health for Oxfam Italy, and Rosella Miccio, president of Emergency.
“Just 1% of vaccine exports from BioNTech, the German pharmaceutical company behind the Pfizer vaccine, have gone to Africa. At the same time, EU member states, led by Germany, have been a major blocker of proposals tabled by South Africa and India and supported by the African Union and over 100 countries for an intellectual property waiver which would allow the generic production of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments.”
To date, the European commitment has consisted above all of broken promises, such as the one made last summer by French president Emmanuel Macron, who said he was in favor of the proposal to suspend patents on vaccines, but he never followed through on his commitment.
“The EU claims they are promoting a ‘prosperous partnership of equals’ with the African Union ―yet they are throwing more vaccine doses in the trash than they are donating to us, while continuing to block a waiver on vaccine patents which would enable us to produce our own vaccines. What’s equal about that?” complained Sani Baba Mohammed, regional secretary for Africa and the Middle East at Public Services International.
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