Issues relating to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have continued to dominate discussions internationally as its stubborn resistance baffles even the most knowledgeable. While scientists are working hard to develop remedies to the virus that has the quality to mutate in strains and variants, world leaders are streamlining policies and helplines to manage the health crisis.
The President of the United States of America, Mr Joe Biden, recently on his way to the summit in England of the Group of Seven (G-7) most advanced countries in the world, announced that his administration has approved the donation of 500 million doses of vaccines to developing countries. He also said that the donation has no strings attached to it as it was United States’ contribution to measures being taken to combat the virus. In his opinion, even if his country were rid of the virus, its existence elsewhere can still be a risk to the American people. How true.
The G-7 countries at their just concluded summit also agreed to raise the volume of vaccines to the more vulnerable countries to 870 million doses. This newspaper commends this decision by these countries who are experiencing, first hand, the harmful effect of COVID-19. It is from this perspective that we call for an early implementation of the decision to reach out to poorer countries. In our considered opinion, the situation is urgent. We insist that an early dispatch of those vaccines which we have reasons to believe are ready, will go a long way to assuage the anxieties of countries, especially in Africa, which are yet to develop their own effective response to the pandemic. Or better put, the African remedies are yet to pass the test of scientific acceptability.
It is important to point out that at the onset of the of the pandemic which put even the most scientifically advanced countries on panic mode, there was an element of desperation as scientists took on the challenge of finding a cure or at least an acceptable remedy in the form of a vaccine. We also note that when positive signs began to emerge from laboratories that vaccines could be produced in no time, the plan by the more developed countries to buy up, in advance, the vaccines that were yet to be produced elicited worries that poorer countries that do not have the resources to compete in the ensuing panic buying might be left behind to face the effect of the virus that was killing people in multiples.
World health authorities, reacting to this scenario, coined the phrase ‘vaccine apartheid’ because poorer countries were going to be left to their own fate to face the devastating effect of the virus. Curiously, by what has been described as divine intervention, the death toll on the poorer countries as a result of the pandemic has not been that severe as experiences in Europe, USA, South America and India indicate.
Maybe, these donations by the developed countries are their own way of debunking such mind set to the effect that Caucasians have more right to life. Whatever be the reason for the gesture, we are inclined to appreciate it for what it is, an extension of a helping hand from the haves to the have –nots.
However, we are concerned about the speculations that are becoming rife that some of these vaccines have very short shelf life which means that their expiry date is so near that their efficacy and usefulness are doubtful. We are compelled to point out that, already, some African countries are destroying vaccines supplied to them which are believed to have expired.
To be understood, we are not saying that these vaccines, soon to be delivered, some of which are heading towards Africa are almost unhealthy. Our argument is that the process of bringing to effect the decision to donate ought to be expedited so as not to defeat the noble intentions of the donor countries.
Africa, like most other countries of the world, felt and are still feeling the effect of the rampaging virus on their socioeconomic life and would appreciate efforts to assist them in managing it in a manner that its impact will be measurably ameliorated.
We are, again, persuaded to refer to the comment by the American President that until the virus is eradicated around the world, no country can pretend to be safe from its vicious grip. This assertion becomes even more critical as new strains and variants are discovered almost on a daily basis and each new strain requiring its own remedies. This reality which is further emphasized by the fact that the world is a global village, demands utmost sincerity from all who are engaged in efforts to fight the virus and defeat it. We urge anyone harboring the thought to use the developing countries as a dumping ground for vaccines they consider not useful for their citizens to please kill it.