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Can we speak of vaccine apartheid in Africa?

According to the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 23 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in Africa. The number of vaccines per number of inhabitants is the lowest in the world.

The number of Covid-19 vaccines administered in Africa is five times lower than those administered in the United States alone. In all, 2% of global doses were administered on the African continent. There are several reasons for this imbalance. Obviously, the economic context is mentioned systematically, but this is not the only reason.

Conclusive results in Nigeria

Some African countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa, were preparing to invest in manufacturing the WHO-approved Covid-19 vaccines. However, a vote by the World Trade Organization (WTO) strengthened the protection of intellectual property. The vote was the logical consequence of extensive lobbying carried out by representatives of developed countries such as the United States, EU countries, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Of course, Africa is lagging far behind when it comes to purchasing vaccines abroad for lack of resources. Nevertheless, efforts have been made by several African countries to manufacture a vaccine. However, no candidate laboratory has been supported for the research. In this case, the expenditure of African states for scientific research represents 0,52% of the GDP of all African countries, and is therefore well below 2,2% of the world average.

As of September 2020, 320 vaccines were in development, including 33 in clinical trials worldwide. A third of these vaccines were developed in Asia. It is therefore not a question of wealth: some countries with low GDP, such as Kazakhstan, Iran or Vietnam, currently have access to their own vaccines undergoing clinical trials.

In Africa, the Nigerian vaccine formula, developed by the African Center of Excellence for the Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), exhibited an antibody neutralizing up to 90% of the presence of Sars-CoV-2, according to an estimate made. by WHO. Yes but here it is, the laboratory had neither the support necessary for the clinical trials nor the funds useful for the industrial manufacture.

Dependence on the West

African governments have chosen to buy the turnkey vaccines instead. An addiction that raises questions. The majority of African states have responded to the health crisis by requesting funding from the World Bank or the Chinese Afreximbank. The latter has obtained purchase guarantees of more than 2,3 billion dollars from the African Union (AU) against loans of 1,4 billion planned for the purchase of the same vaccines, mostly Chinese of course. .

In return, the vaccines tested in Africa are the least available on the continent. Clinical trials of Pfizer, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and Astrazeneca vaccines have been carried out in Africa.

Another concern is the origin of funding for African laboratories with the capacity to develop and market a vaccine. “Many research facilities across Africa are funded primarily by Western countries, which means that most research programs are dictated by these countries and not by African countries,” summarizes Gerald Mboowa, a recognized researcher at the 'Makerere University in Uganda.

An Algeria-South Africa front line

According to several analysts, Africa will not achieve collective immunity until 2023, and a framework for mutual aid between African countries has not even been discussed. A real vaccine apartheid, where the richer countries divide to rule better, where the West develops vaccines, tests them on Africans and produces them to, then, deprive African countries of them.

It is for this reason that states are forced, because of bad governance and the lack of choice offered, to depend on the Covax initiative or on donations from China and India, or even on the agreements of a UA which will put the continent a little more in debt.

Some countries, like Algeria and South Africa, have tried to change things. The second had called for an effort to protect intellectual property. The first is currently setting up two factories to manufacture the Russian vaccine. Develop vaccines against Covid-19 in Africa would make it possible to obtain doses at lower costs but also to give more political weight to developing countries. What, in the future, to meet other health challenges in Africa? Because Covid-19 is not the only African scourge: Ebola, malaria and HIV are also the health issues of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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