The leading pharmaceutical companies whose medicinal breakthroughs in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic have been greeted with excitement and relief say they currently have no supplies for the continent of Africa just yet.
Moderna and AstraZeneca, two of these companies, have reportedly said they have no immediate doses for Africa where the virus has killed over 70,000 people having infected about 3 million. The continent’s management of the coronavirus comes across to the global observer as the most prudent even though spikes in South Africa are among the worst in the world.
But at the beginning of this year, Bloomberg reports that South Africa’s presidency believes Africa will have to go through a tough time to realize the considerable amount of doses needed for a populace of more than 1.3 billion. The task is hard enough for South Africa, the second-largest economy on the continent.
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Over the weekend of New Year’s festivities, the country whose president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is the head of the African Union, put out a statement saying it is “working hard in South Africa and on the continent to protect our people against Covid-19”.
The statement also called the price of the vaccine from Pfizer, another of the pharmaceutical giants, “prohibitive”. Pfizer responded that it is committed “to equitable access for Covid-19 vaccines…to low- and lower-middle-income countries at a not-for-profit price”.
Pfizer and the German company BioNTech have both pledged to deliver up to 50 million doses of the vaccine to African health workers, by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca wants the AU to begin negotiations for doses with the Serum Institute of India Ltd, which is making the vaccine on behalf of AstraZeneca.
South Africa has been the destination of four different vaccine trials, including AstraZeneca’s. However, the country is now about to secure doses that will be enough for only 10% of its 60 million people. In the last few weeks, Ramaphosa’s government has come under intense criticisms as a result of the lack of vaccines.
South Africa hopes to come to an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to obtain affordable vaccines for the country and others in Africa. Johnson & Johnson are currently undertaking a trial in South Africa with hopes of opening a vaccine plant to manufacture 300 million doses of vaccine a year.
The batch of vaccines South Africa hopes to acquire comes via the COVAX program, a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative intended to ensure an equitable distribution in the face of global competition.
Many African countries will have vaccines through this intervention but there remains a sore lack of preparation in most countries to complement this effort. In the coming months, the struggle for vaccines promises to become the most harrowing outgrowths of global inequality in recent memory.