EU set to bin 25 million more vaccine doses than it has donated to Africa this year
The European Union has been accused of perpetuating “vaccine apartheid”, as new analysis suggested it could soon be forced to throw away some 25 million more coronavirus vaccine doses than it has donated to African nations so far in 2022.
Close to 55 million doses held in the EU are set to expire at the end of February, according to data shared with the People’s Vaccine Alliance and published on the eve of a Brussels summit of African and European leaders.
This considerably outstrips the roughly 30 million doses donated to African nations between 1 January and 8 February, figures also collated by health analytics firm Airfinity suggest.
It comes amid a potential showdown in Brussels at the African Union-EU summit this week over European member states’ alleged blocking of proposals for an intellectual property waiver allowing the production of Covid vaccines, tests and treatments on the African continent.
African Union leaders have sought to convince their EU counterparts to include a commitment to “engage constructively towards the conclusion of a targeted and time-bound waiver” in the summit’s joint declaration, multiple reports suggest.
French president Emmanuel Macron, who is hosting the summit, voiced support for a waiver last summer, but campaigners say he has done little since to challenge the EU’s stance on the issue.
Highlighting the reticence in Brussels, French trade minister Franck Riester said at a conference this week that, while “intellectual property should never be a brake” to vaccine production, “we do not want to call into question a system of intellectual property that allows for innovation and that has made it possible, in particular, to have vaccines very quickly in the case of Covid-19”.
Sani Baba Mohammed, regional secretary for Africa and Arab countries at Public Services International, a unions federation comprising one of the nearly 80 groups which make up the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said: “The EU claims they are promoting a ‘prosperous partnership of equals’ with the African Union.
“Yet they are throwing more vaccine doses in the trash than they are donating to us, while continuing to block a waiver on vaccine patents which would enable us to produce our own vaccines. What’s equal about that?
“This vaccine apartheid – perpetuated by the EU – has a brutal human cost. Our livelihoods continue to be destroyed, our economies shattered, our health workers pushed beyond the brink.
World news in pictures Show all 50 1 /50 World news in pictures World news in pictures 16 February 2022 Syrian firefighters extinguish fire following artillery shelling by the Syrian regime on a fuel depot affiliated to the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) jihadist group in the northwestern rebel-held town of Dana AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 15 February 2022 Austria’s Cornelia Huetter competes in the womens downhill final during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre AFP/Getty World news in pictures 14 February 2022 A Taliban fighter directs traffic as a street vendor sells red heart-shaped balloons for Valentine’s Day, in Kabul, Afghanistan AP World news in pictures 13 February 2022 Russian Navy’s diesel-electric Kilo class submarine Rostov-on-Don sails with an naval ensign of the Russian Federation, also known in Russian as The Andreyevsky Flag on it through the Bosphorus Strait on the way to the Black Sea AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 12 February 2022 People participate in the Winter Snow Sports Festival in Kalam AFP/Getty World news in pictures 11 February 2022 A tank during joint exercises of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus as part of an inspection of the Union State’s Response Force, at a firing range near Brest Russian Defence Ministry/AFP/Getty World news in pictures 10 February 2022 Multiple exposure photo of Magdalena Czyszczon of Poland during the Speed Skating warm up at the 2022 Beijing Olympics Reuters World news in pictures 9 February 2022 An Indian hand rickshaw puller waits for customers in front of a building displaying posters of different theater shows in Kolkata, India AP World news in pictures 8 February 2022 Starlings overfly Zaragoza, Spain EPA World news in pictures 7 February 2022 Performers dressed as superhero characters pose with a child receiving the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 at a gym in San Juan City, suburban Manila AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 6 February 2022 Cars stop before a flooded area, after Cyclone Batsirai made landfall, on a road in Vohiparara, Madagascar Reuters World news in pictures 5 February 2022 A woman carries a child as locals who were displaced by Cyclone Ana find refuge in an evacuation centre at the West Ankorondrano neighbourhood, Madagascar Reuters World news in pictures 4 February 2022 Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, at the National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, in Beijing AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 3 February 2022 Italian Air Force aerobatic display team, the Frecce Tricolori, perform during the inauguration of the president of the Italian Republic, in Rome. Sergio Mattarella was elected for a second term EPA World news in pictures 2 February 2022 Italian athletes during training ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics Reuters World news in pictures 1 February 2022 People are sprayed with foam at an amusement park as part of holiday festivities on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Tiger in Yogyakarta AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 31 January 2022 Arterial roads are lit up as morning commuters drive along at dawn in western Beijing ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 30 January 2022 Rafael Nadal reacts after beating Daniil Medvedev in the men’s singles Australian Open final. In doing so, the Spaniard won a record-breaking 21st grand slam title AFP/Getty World news in pictures 29 January 2022 A worker cleans up crude oil on Mae Ram Phueng beach following a spill caused by a leak in an undersea pipeline owned by Star Petroleum Refining Public Company Limited in Rayong, Thailand Getty World news in pictures 28 January 2022 Medical staff in personal protective equipment are seen at a speed skating training session for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Reuters World news in pictures 27 January 2022 Los Angeles sculptor Dan Medina has honored the anniversary of the deaths of Kobe and Gigi Bryant along with seven other passengers by placing a temporary statue of the two where their helicopter crashed two years ago today in Calabasas, California REUTERS World news in pictures 26 January 2022 The Central Reserve Police Force during the 73rd Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi, India EPA World news in pictures 25 January 2022 A winter swimming enthusiast dives into a partly frozen lake in a partly frozen lake in Shenyang, in northeastern China’s Liaoning province AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 24 January 2022 A newlywed couple from the US enjoys a snowfall during a photo shooting near the Acropolis in Athens AFP via Getty Images World news in pictures 23 January 2022 Anti-vaccine and mask activists act out getting a vaccine during a ‘Defeat the Mandates’ rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, USA EPA World news in pictures 22 January 2022 Horse patrol of the 2nd Lublin Territorial Defense Brigade on the border with Belarus in Wlodawa, Poland EPA World news in pictures 21 January 2022 Carlos Hebert Plante dives into freezing waters to use his boogie board as extreme cold weather hits Montreal, Quebec, Canada Reuters World news in pictures 20 January 2022 Children wearing traditional uniform take part in the children’s ‘Tamborrada’ drum event to mark San Sebastian patron saint’s Day, in Basque Country, northern Spain EPA World news in pictures 19 January 2022 A woman poses for a picture near an ice hole as a man takes a dip during celebrations of the Orthodox Christian feast of Epiphany in the settlement of Ivanovskoye in the Moscow region, Russia REUTERS World news in pictures 18 January 2022 Soldiers march during celebrations to mark Royal Thai Armed Forces Day at Chulabhorn Camp in the southern Thailand province of Narathiwat AFP/Getty World news in pictures 17 January 2022 Novak Djokovic prepares to take his seat on a plane to Belgrade, in Dubai, after losing his bid to stay in Australia to defend his Australian Open title despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19 AP World news in pictures 16 January 2022 A dog drinks water from a tap on Bondi Beach in Sydney Getty World news in pictures 15 January 2022 The Patrouille Suisse jets perform prior to the Men’s Downhill race at the Fis Alpine Skiing World Cup in Wengen, Switzerland EPA World news in pictures 14 January 2022 Hindu devotees take a dip in the waters of river Narmada in Budhni, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, a day considered to be of great religious significance in Hindu mythology AFP/Getty World news in pictures 13 January 2022 Kuwait City’s al-Hamra tower (right), the headquarters of The National Bank of Kuwait (centre) and the al-Rayah tower (left), caught in heavy fog AFP/Getty World news in pictures 12 January 2022 An Ivory Coast supporter cheers before the group Africa Cup of Nations match between Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast at Stade de Japoma in Douala AFP/Getty World news in pictures 11 January 2022 A shopkeeper poses for a photo in front of a shop selling decorations in the old quarter of Hanoi ahead of the Lunar New Year or Tet holiday AFP/Getty World news in pictures 10 January 2022 Members of the Serbian community march in Melbourne, Australia, in support of tennis player Novak Djokovic, who was being kept in an immigration detention center after his visa was revoked upon landing in the country EPA World news in pictures 9 January 2022 A firefighter of Minas Gerais state seeks for victms after a wall of rock collapsed on top of motor boats below a waterfall in Capitolio, in Minas Gerais state, Brazil Reuters World news in pictures 8 January 2022 Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, the military reserve of the Ukrainian Armes Forces walk on a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near to Avdiivka, Donetsk, southeastern Ukraine AFP/Getty World news in pictures 7 January 2022 Christian Lavieille and co-driver Johnny Aubert compete during the Stage 6 of the Dakar 2021 near the Saudi capital Riyadh AFP/Getty World news in pictures 6 January 2022 A man shows off riding skills during Epiphany celebrations in the village of Pietrosani, Romania AP World news in pictures 5 January 2022 A woman and a nun look toward the north, near the demilitarised zone which separates the two Koreas REUTERS World news in pictures 4 January 2022 Tourists visit the Taj Mahal amidst fog in Agra AFP/Getty World news in pictures 3 January 2022 German ski jumper Markus Eisenbichler in action during training for the Four Hills Tournament in Innsbruck, Austria REUTERS World news in pictures 2 January 2022 A firefighter looks at the smoke rising after a suspected arson in the Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa Reuters World news in pictures 1 January 2022 New Year’s Eve fireworks erupt over Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House during the fireworks show AFP/Getty World news in pictures 31 December 2021 A winter swimming enthusiast skates on a frozen lake in Shenyang, in northeastern China’s Liaoning AFP/Getty World news in pictures 30 December 2021 A Sadhu or a Hindu holyman smokes at Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati ahead of the Magh Mela festival in Allahabad, India AFP/Getty World news in pictures 29 December 2021 A woman takes a picture of ice-covered vehicles unloaded from the cargo ship Sun Rio, which was caught in severe weather conditions in the Sea of Japan, in the port of Vladivostok, Russia REUTERS
Mr Mohammed said it was “encouraging” that the African Union “is standing up to the EU” and asking for a reference to the waiver to be included in the summit’s outcome document, adding: “The EU must stop standing in the way.”
Just 11 per cent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said earlier this month – warning that the vaccination rate needs to increase sixfold if the continent is to meet the UN health agency’s target of 70 per cent, set for mid-2022.
While, as of June 2021, the EU had contributed more than €3bn to the UN’s Covax programme – which accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the doses received African nations, according to the WHO – the vaccine equity scheme has now run out of funding, after missing its target to inoculate 20 per cent of people in poorer nations by the end of last year.
Meanwhile, just eight per cent of the vaccine doses exported from Europe are sold to Africa, according to Airfinity – although this percentage varies significantly between member states.
While the EU has pledged €1bn to support the set-up of vaccine factories in Africa, the People’s Vaccine Alliance claimed that, being under the grip of pharmaceutical firms, these will not give countries autonomy over the vaccine supplies produced there.
“European Commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen, said at the beginning of the pandemic that the vaccine should be a global public good,” said Christian Aid’s pan-Africa senior advocacy advisor, Joab Okanda.
“Yet instead, she has ensured it is a private profit opportunity, raking in billions for Big Pharma and the EU, while almost 9 out of 10 people in Africa aren’t fully vaccinated, two years into this deadly pandemic. This is shameful.”
Urging European nations to “stop blocking” African producers from making their own Covid vaccine doses, Oxfam’s health policy manager, Anna Marriott, said: “If there truly is a common agenda between the unions, then the EU would stop putting the interests of pharmaceutical companies, who have reaped billions from the pandemic, ahead of African lives.
“These vaccines were publicly funded, and the recipes should be shared with the world to allow all qualified producers to make these vital shots.”
A European Commission spokesperson said that vaccination is a member state competence, saying: “While we are working with the member states to manage the purchase and delivery of the vaccines, they plan the national vaccination process and the process of donations, taking into account the foreseen expiration date of the vaccines.”
The Commission discusses Covax donations with member states in the Vaccine Steering Board every week, encouraging them to plan ahead, the spokesperson said, adding that “where donations via GAVI are not possible (due for example, to short shelf life), we work with member states to put arrangements in place for bilateral donations to countries who wish to take these doses, so that as few as possible are wasted”.
On the subject of a waiver, a spokesperson said the Commission had “shown flexibility to consider a solution that, by clarifying or waiving certain obligations” would allow World Trade Organisation members “to authorise a company to manufacture and export Covid-19 pharmaceutical products in a fast and simplified manner without the consent of the patent owner”.
This “would also ensure that countries with no or insufficient manufacturing capacity do not face any obstacles or legal uncertainty when they import these products”, they said.
But they said the full waiving of patents and other rights “would not in itself help reaching the objective of the widest and timely distribution of Covid-19 vaccines”, adding: “On the contrary, we need measures that preserve the ongoing unprecedented collaborations between pharmaceutical companies that yield record supplies of vaccines as well as incentives to innovate and invest in research on Covid-19 and its variants.
“All these elements must go hand in hand if we are to support the increasing of production facilities in regions such as Africa. The production will not increase if there is no transfer of know-how and investment and, for that to happen, we need the intellectual property framework which secures the rights of innovators. The EU’s approach combines all these necessary elements.”