Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts

Friday, December 3, 2021

Vaccine apartheid is prolonging COVID – not vaccine hesitancy

There’s a colonial tendency to portray people in Africa as anti-science and averse to progress, when the real problem is Big Pharma’s monopoly


By Alena Ivanova

Next week will mark the first anniversary of the NHS administering the first COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials in a hospital in Coventry. Almost a year on from 8 December 2020, the Omicron variant threatens to ruin yet another holiday season and raises questions about the UK government’s approach.

But we already knew of the dangers of vaccine inequality. While the UK this morning announced it had ordered an additional 114 million COVID vaccine doses – despite around 85% of its adult population being fully vaccinated – just 6% of Africa’s 1.2 billion people have received two doses. And hastily reimposed travel bans on people from the African continent reveal more than the refusal of governments in the Global North to deal with the crisis at hand. The racist scapegoating of Black people has a history as old as public health itself.

There is no conclusive evidence that the new travel ban imposed by the UK on six countries in southern Africa will be effective. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence to show that the new variant was circulating in Europe much before Omicron was identified in South Africa, thanks to the scientific rigour and openness of South African researchers. Arbitrary travel bans can affect scientific cooperation and knowledge-sharing, as Tulio de Oliveira, director of South Africa’s Centre for Epidemic Response & Innovation, has warned. He tweeted that travel restrictions mean laboratories don’t get essential supplies.

But politicians and CEOs in the Global North have been busy excusing their dreadful track record on cooperation with low- and middle-income countries, blaming the low vaccination levels in southern Africa on hesitancy. Soundbites such as Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla’s claim that vaccine hesitancy in low-income countries is “way, way higher than the percentage of hesitancy in Europe or in the US or Japan”, have angered many, who have accused them of being tropes grounded in racism – akin to those used during the HIV crisis. In reality, research has suggested a higher willingness to take COVID vaccines in lower- and middle-income countries. But portraying people in Africa as anti-science and averse to progress has long been the coloniser’s excuse to dominate and subjugate and we should not be surprised that it keeps rearing its ugly head. What’s worrying is the speed with which such excuses are adopted by the UK government, while being left unchallenged by the media.

Britain’s Africa minister, Vicky Ford, has repeatedly evaded the issue of vaccine supplies to low- and middle-income countries, focussing instead on their vaccine hesitancy when questioned in Parliament. But research shows no basis for such claims. Africa’s problem is not hesitancy but the fact that many of its healthcare systems are ravaged by privatisation, often imposed by countries such as the UK. Is it any wonder that most African countries are unable to respond quickly and efficiently to the uncertain supply of donated vaccines that arrive with little warning?

Even the so-called ‘level-playing field’ of the market doesn’t seem to deliver for African countries. Earlier this year, Botswana ordered 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine at a higher price than was paid by some richer countries. Delivery was expected in August, but as Zain Rizvi, a drug policy expert at US think tank Public Citizen, has noted, none had appeared by October.

What’s more, vaccine hesitancy exists everywhere. The early stages of the vaccination programme in Europe were marred by controversy around the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, with several countries suspending the inoculation drive or switching vaccines by age group. Even now, enclaves of vaccine hesitancy and mistrust remain across the continent, yet nobody seems to deny European countries the right to an adequate supply of doses.

So where do we really stand on vaccine inequality? COVAX, the global mechanism that was supposed to facilitate equal sharing of doses through a centralised donation and purchasing scheme, has failed. Its original goal of distributing two billion doses across the world during 2021 won’t be met. Instead, COVAX now has a revised goal of distributing 1.45 billion doses by the end of the year. But at the time of writing, only 589 million doses had been shipped; shockingly half a million of those were delivered to the UK.

Pharmaceutical companies tell us that supply is not the problem. Yet, with rich countries guzzling the existing doses and refusing to share equally, the only just solution is to expand supply. But a waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests – a proposal to increase production that is supported by much of the world –is being blocked by the same countries that have hoarded doses and protected the financial interests of big pharma.

This article originally appeared at opendemocracy.net on and originally published on December 2, 2021.  This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. 

Please support and visit The Brooks Blackboard's websiteour INTEL pageOPEN MIND page, and LIKE and FOLLOW our Facebook page.

Follow me on Twitter at @_CharlesBrooks   



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More Clinton confidential papers released...

By Charles Brooks

“Courtesy, William J. Clinton Presidential Library.”
A fourth batch of confidential documents from the Clinton days in the White House was recently released for public view on April 18th.  This release of documents contains over 100 files totaling approximately 7,500 pages - the largest set of documents released thus far. As noted in The Blackboard’s previous posts on the Clinton Papers, these confidential documents contain items such as email correspondence, presidential meeting schedules, handwritten notes, internal memorandums, transcripts, letters, and speech drafts.  This stream of confidential correspondence – hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents provides the public with a peek to the world inside the White House where candid thoughts and hard-line positions are debated and captured on paper. 

These confidential documents delve into a wide range of issues that do well to remind the public of the hot-button policy issues as well as the tabloid scandals and political crises. The public can now view these internal memos that can provide some insight into the administrations’ thinking and approach to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the genocide in Rwanda, the aftermath of the horrific Oklahoma City bombing, and contentious relations with the Republicans.  In reviewing several of the released files, The Blackboard uncovered a few rather revealing items.  For instance, the White House relationship with the press: “We are really caught in a pull and tug with the magazine, I agree with some of LIFE's comments, but strongly disagree on others.  I agree with their reordering of the text, and I think it comes close to my first draft: opening with the personal Boys Nation anecdote, moving to the timeless lessons to be drawn from Kennedy's administration. My argument is not with the story they want, but the way they want the story told. The tone they seek from the President is so self-centered, it's actually solipsistic.”