By Reinhard Jacobsen
International scientists and leaders have urged a “global response of collaboration with Africa on COVID-19 following Omicron outbreak”. Over a hundred academics and leaders from Europe, Africa, the US among others say in a joint letter to the European Commission and the World Health Organization (WHO) that they are “concerned with the lack of action for vaccination in Africa and solidarity with Africa”.
There is no way that isolation of Africa could be the solution to this problem, says the letter. “We ask that the response is based on science.”
The letter of November 29 is addressed to Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“The COVID-19 Variant of Concern, Omicron, reported by the South African government on November 24, must result in a reset of the global response to curb the pandemic,” they note and stress: “The science is absolutely clear: until everyone is vaccinated no one is safe”.
While 63% of people in high-income countries are fully vaccinated, just 1.4% of people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated (Amnesty International, quoting Our World in Data, 21.10.2021).
The vaccine inequality is shocking. Rich countries have been buying most of the world’s supplies without any strategy to fulfil the needs of low-income countries. The emergence of Omicron points to the need for global solidarity—as a moral imperative as well as out of sheer self-interest.
“A global strategy to fight the pandemic must include a plan to protect Africa”, says the letter, adds: “New variants of Concern will continue to emerge and are likely to become increasingly dangerous in the absence of such a strategy.”
The letter adds: “Leadership is required in order to act now, and this should include
- Financial and technical support for the establishment of vaccine production sites in Africa;
- An immediate plan to transfer vaccines to Africa to start widespread vaccination programmes;
- Assistance in wide-spread vaccination campaigns and for building trust in the effectiveness on vaccinations.
Signatories to the letter include: Fortune Z Charumbira, Acting President, Pan African Parliament; Lilianne Ploumen, Former Minister of Development Cooperation and International Trade, Leader of the Labour Party, Member of the House of Representatives, The Netherlands; Prof Ronald de Jong, Professor of Practice, Tilburg University, The Netherlands; Paul Polman, Former CEO Unilever, The Netherlands; Prof Dr Francis B. Nyamnjoh, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Others are: Prof Dr Mouhamad Mpezamihigo, Vice Chancellor Kampala International University, Chair Virus Outbreak Data Network (VODAN)-Africa, Uganda; Dr Lieve Fransen, Senior policy advisor EPC and Director health support at the Wits University South Africa; Myles Axton, Editor in Chief, Advanced Genetics; Prof Dr Munyaradzi Mawere, Chief Scientist, Great Zimbabwe University, Co-Chair FAIR Implementation Network Africa, Zimbabwe; and Cllr Hon Tolbert Nyenswah, Former Deputy Minister of Health Liberia, Senior Research Associate Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA.
Following are some of the other signatories: Wim Leereveld, Founder Access to Medicine Foundation, The Netherlands; Malole Baluka, President’s Office, Uganda; Habtom H. Habte, PhD, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals, Spring House, Pennsylvania, USA, Bernice Dahn, Former Minister of Health Liberia, Dean of Faculty of Medical School Liberia; Prof Dr Mahaman TIDJANI ALOU, Prof of Political science, University Abdou Moumounl, and permanent reseacher of lasdel, Niamey, Niger; Prof Dr Mark Musen, Biomedical Informatics, Stanford University, USA; Bram van Ojik, Former Leader of the Green Left Party, The Netherlands; Dr Bassirou Tidjani, Professor of Business, University of Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal; Foad Aodi, Unione medica euro Mediterranea (UMEM), Associazone medici di origine straniera in Italia (AMSI), Italy; Mariam Basajja, Leiden Institute for Advanced Computer Science, Leiden University; Prof Dr Wolbert G.C. Smidt, Senior researcher at Jena University, adj. Prof. MU, Germany; Habteab B. Feseha, MD, Interventional Cardiology, Yuma, Arizona, USA; Julia Duncan-Cassell, Former Minister of Gender and Social Protection, Liberia; Prof Dr Mirjam van Reisen, International Relations, Innovation and Care, Tilburg University and Professor FAIR Data Science, Leiden University Medical Centre, The Netherlands; Prof Dr Francisca Onaolapo Oladipo, Federal University of Lokoja, Nigeria; Chief Benn Tommy Yomi AINA, University Chief Counselling Psychologist; Federal University Lokoja Kogi State Nigeria.