Special advisor to Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Zane Dangor, stated on Thursday that vaccine nationalism is the opposite of the solidarity approach that was spoken of at the outset of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Dangor was addressing an online discussion on ‘Trade, patent law and vaccine procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic’ which focused on issues and lessons for the global south.
Vaccine nationalism is when governments sign agreements with pharmaceutical companies to supply their own populations ahead of the vaccine becoming available for other countries.
“We have warned for some time that differential pace at which vaccines are rolled out within the context of vaccine nationalism may create conditions for increased political turmoil and tensions in regions of the world,” he said.
According to reports, by late 2020, 14% of the world’s population had pre-ordered 53% of the available vaccines, outside of those produced by Russia and China.
The World Health Organization has stated that inoculating everybody in rich countries, while the vast majority of the world’s population remained vulnerable, would do very little to stem the pandemic.
The organisation has advised that people be inoculated worldwide, more or less simultaneously, in a manner that would break the chain.
Founder and head of the Health Justice Initiative Fathima Hassan warned that the world was in a crisis and on the road to disaster.
“If you can’t get enough supplies of vaccines both to South Africa and to all countries in the global south, we are not going to achieve the objective of global population immunity by the end of 2021,” she said.
The Health Justice Initiative is a new public health and law initiative focusing on Covid-19, drawing on the expertise of multidisciplinary researchers in law, economics and public health, as well as universities and experts in and outside of South Africa.
Hassan said recent reports have even indicated that worldwide vaccination could occur at the end of 2023.
She added that it was worrying that in recent weeks variants have been discovered, not just in South Africa, but also in the UK, Brazil and other parts of the world.
“The longer it takes to immunise everyone in the world, the more variants and mutations we are going to have. The issue of urgent access to vaccines is not just about affordability or about trade relations or diplomatic pressure but it is the issue of a life or death situation for many of us in the global south,” she warned.