Zimbabwean businessman and African Union special envoy, Strive Masiyiwa has criticised the COVAX facility for sidelining Africa and failing to deliver the 700 million vaccine doses to the continent as was initially agreed early this year.
COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, is a global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.
However, according to Masiyiwa, the facility has not been championing equitable distribution of vaccines as rich countries were given preference and hoarded doses in advance.
Speaking during a virtual summit on vaccine equality and equitable distribution, Dr Masiyiwa said the COVAX facility has not worked in favour of the African people. He said:
They told us that they had created this thing called COVAX. I met with my colleagues in the African Union in January and I asked them what the COVAX facility would do for us and they said we can deliver up to 20% of vaccines and I said 20% cannot deal with our problem.
You yourselves and the Europeans have set a target of 70% of the population, why should Africa have to deal with this permanently. They said you have to go to the donors and I told them to meet us halfway and they said okay.
I said can you give us a schedule of what you can deliver and they said 700 million doses by December and up to 27% of your population by December would have received vaccines but we have only received less than 30 million of those projected targets.
Meanwhile, the US has fully vaccinated 45% of its people, the UK 47% and the European Union 29%. Africa has had 61.4 million doses delivered to 1.1 billion people. Just 1.1% of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Masiyiwa added that failure by the COVAX facility in Africa has been more deliberate than it is a moral failure.
You cannot tell us on one hand that you are going to give us but you haven’t lifted the restrictions on exports of raw materials needed to produce vaccines.
The United States has export restrictions on over 60 components required in the production of vaccines. We need access to these vaccines and I came here to tell you that if ever there was an inquiry into how this was done, we even find COVAX culpable because we were misled.
We were led down the garden path, we got to December believing that the whole world was coming together to purchase vaccines not knowing that we have been pushed into a little corner whilst others run off and secure the supplies.
Africa is currently battling a devastating third wave of coronavirus infections which have seen countries such as Namibia, Uganda and Zimbabwe reeling under the new coronavirus strain.