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African leaders highlight COVID-19 vaccine inequity at 4th day of UNGA

By Nneka Nwogwugwu

The 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly continues with a fourth day of high-level meetings and addresses from world leaders.

Friday’s list of speakers includes the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, Germany, Nigeria, Pakistan and Japan.

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday pointed to vaccines as “the greatest defence that humanity has against the ravages of this pandemic”.

“It is, therefore, a great concern that the global community has not sustained the principles of solidarity and cooperation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.

“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 percent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1 percent has gone to low-income countries.”

He and others urged UN member states to support a proposal to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rights established by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow more countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

For his part, Namibian President Hage Geingob slammed what he called “vaccine apartheid”, saying it was a pity that while people in some countries were at the stage of receiving booster jabs, people in other countries had yet to receive their first dose.

Angola’s President Joao Lourenco, meanwhile, said it was “shocking to see the disparity between some nations and others with respect to availability of vaccines”.

“These disparities allow for third doses to be given, in some cases, while, in other cases, as in Africa, the vast majority of the population has not even received the first dose,” Lourenço said.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa called on the international community to exercise “enhanced multilateralism and a unity of purpose’ in vaccine distribution.

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