Ramaphosa slams 'vaccine nationalism' in WEF address, pleads with rich countries to release hoarded doses

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • The world's countries need to collaborate to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines, President Cyril Ramaphosa told this year's Davos meeting.
  • Ramaphosa slammed rich countries for hoarding doses, to the exclusion of other countries.
  • So far the Covid-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team has secured 270 million doses and a further 600 million are expected from Covax, he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has pleaded with "rich countries" to release their "hoards" of Covid-19 vaccines so that other countries can also benefit.

The president, who is also the chairperson of the African Union (AU), was delivering an address at the World Economic Forum digital Davos summit on Tuesday.

Discussing the impact of Covid-19 on the continent, Ramaphosa said that "greater collaboration" is needed in the rollout of vaccines so that no country is left behind.

"We are concerned of vaccine nationalism. The rich countries in the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines from the developers and manufacturers of these vaccines. 

"Some countries went beyond and acquired up to four times than what their population needs. This is being done to the exclusion to other countries in the world," Ramaphosa said.

The president said countries which have excess or hoards of vaccines should release them for other countries to access.

"There is just no need for a country with 40 million people to acquire 160 million doses, when the world needs access to those vaccines."

Ramaphosa explained that the Covid-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team has attempted to secure vaccines, but has only been "marginally" successful.

"We need those who have hoarded the vaccines to release the vaccines so that other countries can have them," he emphasised.

The task team has secured a provisional 270 million doses for African countries directly through vaccine manufacturers. A further 600 million doses are expected from the World Health Organisation's Covax initiative. Ramaphosa previously said an estimated 1.5 billion doses to immunise 60% of the continent's population.

With the greatest burden of disease on the continent, South Africa has recorded around 1.4 million Covid-19 cases and more than 40 000 people have lost their lives.

"We want vaccines as quickly as other countries have already started because we are all not safe if some countries are vaccinating their people and other countries are not vaccinating.

"We all must act together in combatting the coronavirus, because it affects all of us equally," he said.

The AU has also established the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, enabling member states to secure vital health supplies at preferential rates, Ramaphosa said.

Sudanese-British billionaire Mo Ibrahim has also warned against the hoarding of vaccines and called for more collaboration in the distribution of doses.

"We are connected. It is so stupid to think we can deal with the virus just within our borders," he said during a webinar hosted by Deloitte last week.

Domestically, South Africa is set to receive one million doses from the Serum Institute of India by the end of the month – these are earmarked for health workers.

The country is targeting vaccinating 40 million South Africans by the end of the year. SA is set to receive 10% of its vaccine from the Covax facility. The country is also engaging directly with vaccine manufacturers.

Globally, Israel is leading the charge in vaccinations, followed by the UAE and the UK.

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