Developing countries should manufacture and procure their own vaccines, Ramaphosa says

22 September 2021 - 21:15
By Amanda Khoza
President Cyril Ramaphosa has told world leaders at the #Covid-19 summit that the priority for developing countries is to develop and procure their own vaccines. File photo.
Image: GCIS President Cyril Ramaphosa has told world leaders at the #Covid-19 summit that the priority for developing countries is to develop and procure their own vaccines. File photo.

While President Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed the US’s commitment to donate an additional 500-million vaccine doses to low-income countries, he said the main priority was for developing nations to manufacture and procure their own.

“This summit must come up with a sustainable plan on how developing countries will be supported. Not only to meet targets around vaccination, oxygen, diagnostics, personal protective equipment but also for manufacturing. We must close the financing and supply gap for Covax, AVATT and other mechanisms,” said Ramaphosa on Wednesday. 

The president was speaking during a virtual global Covid-19 summit at the invitation of US President Joe Biden under the theme “Ending the Pandemic and Building Better Health Security to Prepare for the Next”.

Earlier, Biden announced that: “The US is buying another half a billion of doses of Pfizer to donate to low and middle income countries around the world. This is another half a billion doses that will all be shipped by this time next year. That brings our total commitment of donated vaccines to over 1.1 billion vaccines to be donated.”  

Biden said this means that for every one shot administered to date in the US, a commitment has been made to give three shots to the rest of the world.

In addition, Biden said the US was providing financing and helping to strengthen manufacturing in SA and produce more than 500-million doses of Johnson & Johnson in Africa for Africa in 2022. He said more than 160-million doses had been shipped to more than 100 countries.

“America’s donations are over half a billion Pfizer vaccines to Covax that I have announced before the G7 Summit in June and have already begun to ship,” he said.

Ramaphosa, who is also the AU champion on Covid-19, told the world leaders that SA was encouraged by the goals and targets for ending the pandemic which were aligned with the key components of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator.

However, he said current realities should be taken into account.

“We have committed to vaccinating at least 70% of the world’s population by next year, but we are now at the end of September and have not reached the 10% target we set ourselves in May,” said Ramaphosa.

He added that the gap between the better-resources nations, who were hoarding vaccines, and the developing countries was widening.  

“Of the around 6-billion vaccine doses administered worldwide, only 2% of these have been administered in Africa, a continent of more than 1.2-billion people. This is unjust and immoral, said Ramaphosa.

SA, he said, was part of the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.

“In March this year all AU member states signed an agreement through AVATT giving us access to 220-million doses of the J&J vaccine.  SA will also host the WHO’s first Covid-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub to serve the continent.”

He said other African countries were also building capacity for manufacturing, supported by partnership for vaccine manufacturing in Africa.

“The greatest lesson we have learnt from this pandemic is that fortune favours the prepared. We support the establishment of a global health financial intermediary fund for pandemic preparedness, as well as a global health threats council,” he said.