Political leaders in Africa have been blamed for their reluctance in demanding quick delivery of Covid-19 vaccines across the continent.
The Co-chair of the African Union African Vaccine Delivery Alliance Dr Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija argues that while vaccine equity criticism focuses on high-income countries hoarding doses, Africa’s political leaders have not been forceful enough.
Save for South Africa’s Cyrill Ramaphosa and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Dr Ayoade was quoted by media platform Devex saying many African leaders were “lulled into a false sense of complacency because they thought that their needs were being covered, either by COVAX or by the pooled scheme.”
She added that instead of advocating for more vaccines, some politicians pillaged COVID-19 relief and social intervention funds.
In August last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered investigations into the State medical supplies unit, KEMSA, following corruption allegations running into millions of shillings in the procurement of supplies for treating coronavirus patients. A report is yet to come out over a year later.
President Ramaphosa has been leading vaccine negotiations for the AU while President Paul Kagame who has vocalized his frustrations around the slow rollout of vaccines while pushing for the setup of mRNA vaccine plant in his country.
“Had Nigerian President Buhari, Kenyan President Kenyatta, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo President Tshisekedi knocked on the door of Pfizer, knocked on the door of Moderna, they could not be turned down, particularly those three countries, because those are such big countries,” Dr Ayoade said.
Africa has fully vaccinated under four per cent of its population compared to the European Union and the United Kingdom that have vaccinated over 60 per cent of their population.
The continent faces a shortfall of about 470 million doses in reaching global goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of her people by December.
Last week, COVAX downgraded its end-of-the-year estimates for vaccine delivery, cutting supplies to African nations by 25 per cent.
African nations have faced months of a “vaccine famine” following India’s decision to halt the export of doses in March.
The AU has separately secured 400 million Johnson & Johnson doses for countries to purchase, partially produced in South Africa.