Making COVID-19 Vaccine a “global public good” for its timely allocation to Africa

Made up of many low and middle income countries, Africa is exposed to the prejudice of the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine nationalism, resulting in a slow penetration of vaccines in the continent, and frustrating immunization campaigns. Indeed, several western countries have purchased doses of vaccines far in excess of their populations’ requirements and urgent needs, leaving part of the humanity in despair, notably in Africa, where the capacity to protect priority groups such as healthcare workers and other vulnerable groups is highly challenged.

In this context, the Framework for Fair, Equitable and Timely Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines in Africa, issued in January 2021 by Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), as well as the UNESCO Ethics Commissions’ Call for Global Vaccines Equity and Solidarity, issued in February 2021 as a joint statement by UNESCO International Bioethics Committee (IBC) and the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST), needed to be reaffirmed for ensuring that a COVID-19 Vaccine is considered a “global public good” that is accessible to everyone, irrespective of ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, race and religion. This is the rationale behind the Series of Community Engagement and Experience Sharing Virtual Workshops on Ethical Considerations in Covid-19 immunization campaigns for its fair, equitable and timely allocation in Africa, with the first of the series held on 14 April 2021.

Experts, healthcare professionals, citizens, civil society organizations, community leaders, the media, policy makers, public health experts, and researchers gathered for this first edition helped unpacking the Africa CDC and UNESCO frameworks, bringing more insight to the notion of fair, equitable and timely access to COVID-19 vaccines as a global public good, but also in examining current and potential challenges in rolling out immunization campaigns. This including, but not limited to intellectual property considerations, infrastructures for the development of vaccines, needed public private partnerships, while adhering to ethical principles and values integrating public good, solidarity, but also capacity building, and  placing the human life at the centre, as encapsulated in the Ubuntu African philosophy, well embedded in the Africa CDC Framework.

The UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relations, Mr. Firmin Edouard Matoko, intervened in the opening session of this virtual workshop.

Mr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, reaffirmed the commitment of the institution he is leading to support African countries in going through the pandemic, including through facilitating access to vaccine.

The workshop was organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the African Union, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, the Coalition of Africa Medical Association and South African Medical Research Council.

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