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G7 summit, COVID-19 and Africa ~ By Paul Ejime

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The ongoing three-day Summit of the G7 world leading economies – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – in Cornwall, south-west England has been dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

By 11th June 2021, the virus had killed more than 3.8 million people from the estimated 176 million cases reported in more than 200 nations and territories worldwide.

Africa, with an estimated 89,000 deaths from 3.5 million reported cases might not have been the worse off among all the regions, but a resurgence is feared with the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning that nine in 10 African countries are set to miss urgent Covid-19 vaccination goal.

Africa has an estimated 1.3 billion people, or 16% of the World’s population, but has only vaccinated about 1.6 million of the 2.26 billion recorded world total.

Meanwhile, the G7 countries, which represent about 10% (some 750 million combined population) of the world’s population, have already vaccinated about 10% of their citizens.

In their magnanimity, the G7 leaders have announced the donation of one billion vaccines to the world’s poorest countries including in Africa.

The U.S., whose President Joe Biden is attending the summit for the first time since his election has pledged 500 million of the vaccine donation, followed by Britain with 100 million.

But amid accusations of “vaccine nationalism” or “vaccine apartheid,” a euphemism for hoarding of the anti-Covid drug by developed nations, civil society and health programme officials are unimpressed with the G7’s response.

“If the best G7 leaders can manage is to donate one billion vaccine doses then this summit will have been a failure,” the Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager Anna Marriott was quoted as saying.

With the World in need of about 11 billion vaccine doses, she warned: “Charity is not going to fix the colossal vaccine supply crisis.”

The Oxfam official is not alone in stressing that a global waiver on patent protections for vaccines profuction is impetative. They are arguing for a stop to pharmaceutical monopolies so as to open up vaccine production outlets.

President Biden and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron support the waiver on the intellectual property behind Covid vaccines. They must rally other world leaders behind the same cause.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only compounded Africa’s myriad health problems characterised by weak, under-funded and some times mismanaged health systems.

If the waiver on the patent for the vaccine production were to be lifted today, only few countries on the continent are in a position to take advantage of the situation.

As of today only two African countries, South Africa and Egypt are producing Covid vaccines.

In April, South African company Aspen Pharmacare started manufacturing the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in its facility and after several months of working with China, Egypt is expected to start producing the first Chinese Covid-19 vaccine manufactured in Africa this month.

With such limited local production capacity, African countries will depend heavily on importation to meet much of their demands for the essential vaccine.

African leaders must therefore pull together to scale up local production/supply.

The rich, poor, advanced or developing World, North and South, must understand that a deadly health pandemic such as Covid-19 is no respecter of race or boundaries.

From the mutation of the virus, the infection of one person in any part of a globalized world can become the infection of all.

The report that the hotel hosting the media and security staff for the G7 England Summit had to be shut temporarily because of coronavirus outbreak is a telling reminder that the world is still facing a real and present danger.

The focus, therefore, should be on collective and inclusive concrete actions to stem the economic and humanitarian devastation of Covid-19 and other health emergencies and also ending troubling inequalities in the world!

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