The director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has urged global powers to avoid a “vaccine war” that would prove harmful to everyone.
John Nkengasong’s remarks followed reports that India has temporarily restricted major exports of the AstraZeneca Plc Covid-19 shot and an announcement by the European Union that the bloc will give itself stronger powers to stop vaccine doses leaving its borders.
The development “leaves me personally with a sense of helplessness but I remain hopeful that the power of humanity will prevail,” Nkengasong told a news conference Thursday. “There’s absolutely no need for us as humanity to go into a vaccine war. We will all be losers.”
The Indian measures may affect supplies to the Covax facility, which aims to provide lower-income countries with enough shots to cover 20% of their populations. India and the EU are trying to accelerate their vaccination campaigns as domestic infections rise.
African countries have so far received more than 16 million AstraZeneca shots through the Covax initiative and 10 million more through bilateral agreements, according to Nkengasong. A program set up by the African Union is close to finalizing deals for 270 million additional vaccines, he said. The Africa CDC is a public health agency within the AU.
The pandemic will not be defeated anywhere as long as “the virus is still circulating in other parts of the world, especially in Africa with a population of 1.2 billion people,” Nkengasong said.