The world still has countries without a single dose of vaccine – While in nations like the United States and the United Kingdom vaccination against covid-19 is advancing fast, in other parts of the planet the campaign has not even begun. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , more than 600 million doses of covid-19 vaccine have been applied worldwide. But the discrepancy between countries is high: while, for example, almost 100% of the population of Gibraltar has already been vaccinated, countries like Nicaragua are still waiting for the first doses. On the global vaccination map, there is still a whole range of African countries awaiting vaccination. arrival of doses – from Libya to Madagascar. These countries are not even included in the WHO vaccination statistics. The picture is similar in Central Asia, as well as in countries like North Korea, Cuba and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This does not mean, however, that these countries have received absolutely no vaccine so far. Bosnia is expected to receive its first major direct delivery in late May, but has already had access to some doses donated by neighboring Serbia.
African countries without vaccine
“With respect to Africa, we have the good news that 44 countries have already received the supply of vaccines. But at the same time, it also means that ten countries have so far not received any vaccines,” says Clemens Schwanhold, of the NGO to combat ONE poverty.
Madagascar, Burundi and Eritrea are among the governments that believed that the virus could be combated by other means. Tanzania, however, has undergone a change of opinion following the sudden death of President John Magufuli, a science denialist, after unconfirmed rumors of a covid infection.
Schwanhold believes that the government led by Magufuli’s successor, President Samia Suluhu Hassan, is likely to order vaccines in the coming weeks. “It will still be a few months, maybe a few weeks, before something arrives”, he comments.
Majority of doses in the hands of EU and USA
“None of us are safe until we are all safe” is a mantra about covid-19 – and it is the idea behind the Covax program to provide global access to vaccination. WHO member states were divided into two groups. One is made up of 98 wealthier countries, which are funding subsidized or free vaccine supplies to the 92 poorest countries.
“The problem is that there are not many more doses of vaccines available because the EU and the United States have already insured the vast majority of them,” says Sonja Weinreich, responsible for health issues at the organization Brot für die Welt (bread for the world), an aid agency run by Protestant churches in Germany. “Therefore, this mechanism has not been able to impose itself properly because this solidarity simply does not exist.”
A large coalition of aid organizations and other groups has called for covid vaccine patent waivers to help tackle this problem. “This would allow the poorest countries – or all companies around the world – that are capable of producing vaccines, to do just that. It would simply have to go hand in hand with the transfer of relevant technology,” says Weinreich.
Brot für die Welt is one of the organizations behind this demand. One argument, she says, is that vaccines were partially developed and produced with public funds: “It is not acceptable for something to be publicly financed and then profits to be privatized,” he says.
The pharmaceutical industry, on the other hand, argues that the patent is not the point. Nathalie Moll, director general of the industry lobby group, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Associations and Industries (EFPIA), told DW at the end of March: “If one company comes into contact with another to expand vaccine production, much technical know-how has to be transferred, so that vaccines can be produced safely and efficiently in the necessary quantities. This is much more than intellectual property “. According to her, 250 licenses had already been distributed worldwide to expand production capacity.
Covax, a realistic initiative?
India – vital to the global supply of vaccines – has recently restricted exports. The government wants to keep supplies in the country, which is currently experiencing record levels of infection. The United States has also exported practically no vaccine, while the European Union has allowed supplies to be sent to poorer countries.
But both Sonja Weinreich and Clemens Schwanhold are optimistic that the main objective of the Covax program can be achieved. The goal is to vaccinate at least 20% of the population in all 92 beneficiary countries by the end of 2021, including high-risk groups and medical personnel.
“I think this is feasible,” says Weinreich. “In Europe, vaccination implementation is starting to pick up speed, and many more vaccines should be available,” she adds.
The EU has ordered more than four vaccines per capita from various manufacturers, although only two at most are needed. Canada has already ordered more than eight. Clemens Schwanhold explains that responsibility issues still need to be resolved before such excess vaccines can be passed on to countries in need.
Manufacturers have passed on their responsibility to most states that purchase their products due to the extremely short delivery time. “And it is understandable that the EU does not want to be held responsible for any potential complaints if it passes on doses of vaccine,” explains Schwanhold.
He says that the success of Covax’s promise depends on “all participants coming together when it comes to financing and supplying raw materials”. The good thing, he argues, is that “Covax does not have to do all this alone”. The African Union has also ordered significantly more than 500 million doses of vaccines, he says: “I am relatively confident that we will have vaccinated much more than 20% by the end of this year.”