‘Don’t leave Africa behind,’ urges Cyril Ramaphosa at WHO Covid-19 vaccine meeting

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SOUTH Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged the international community not to leave Africa behind in the distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Speaking at the first council meeting of a World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative aimed at speeding up the development, production and equal distribution of a vaccine, Ramaphosa said the world would not be able to achieve universal health coverage if a Covid-19 vaccine is only available to well-resourced nations.

‘We, therefore, need to move swiftly to ensure that everyone has access to the vaccine once it is developed, at the same time.’

Ramaphosa co-chairs the facilitation council for the WHO’s initiative, called ACT-Accelerator but financial support for the programme has lagged as governments, including the European Union, Japan and the United States pursue bilateral deals that some fear will leave poorer nations at the back of the queue for a vaccine.

At Thursday’s online event, Rwandan President Paul Kagame reiterated Ramaphosa’s request.

‘We can ensure that vaccine distribution is fair and equitable. This will, in turn, support the resumption of economic activity which benefits us all.’

The event was attended by, among other, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

He said about $3bn had been contributed to the accelerator programme so far – which he described as seed funding, before urging the international community to contribute another $35bn, including $15bn over the next three months.

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