A second pandemic threatens

While Germany is arguing about the pace of the corona vaccination campaign, many countries are still left with nothing. The global inequality in vaccination rates threatens a new pandemic.

By the end of the summer, all citizens in Germany should receive a vaccination offer – at least that promises Chancellor Angela Merkel. This hope for a timely step into a new normal after the Corona-Pandemie is a utopia for many developing countries, especially the African continent misses out on the distribution of vaccines. The motto is obvious: rich countries first, national egoism triumphs over international solidarity.

Hanoi (Vietnam): Blood is drawn from a man for a corona test. (Source: imago images)

In a global construct of nation states, this is not a big surprise, especially in such a crisis. But especially in this pandemic, the large white spots on the vaccination map are extremely dangerous – even for industrialized countries that are already vaccinated. If the pace in the fight against corona does not align around the world, there is a threat of new mutations and vaccines that have been developed will be less effective. In the worst case, national egoism threatens a new pandemic.

Sobering distribution of the vaccines

Actually, the international community had planned it differently. Under the leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO) the Covax initiative was launched. The idea: richer countries should make funds available so that poorer countries can buy cheaper vaccine doses. But Covax cannot fundamentally solve the distribution problem because the range of vaccines is still far too small.

Funeral procession in Sudan: Former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi died with Covid-19 disease.  (Source: imago images)Funeral procession in Sudan: Former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi died with Covid-19 disease. (Source: imago images)

That is why Covax’s result so far has been sobering. Of the 54 African countries, only six have started vaccinations so far, and only a few in Asia. After all, Covax announced on Wednesday, in February, the first vaccine doses to development and Emerging markets send off. But so far only the active ingredient from Pfizer / Biontech get emergency approval from WHO for the whole world – and vaccination doses are only given to 18 countries. According to the WHO, they were selected based on their ability to store the product very cold, among other things. The poorest countries in the world are not included.

Also: According to an analysis by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), almost 70 percent of the vaccinations given to date have been injected in the 50 richest countries. In the 50 poorest countries, however, only 0.1 percent of vaccine doses were given. “This is alarming because it is unfair and because it could prolong or even worsen this dire pandemic,” said IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain.

No vaccinations, hardly any tests

Differences in speed are particularly evident between the global south and north. Example: The European Union wants to vaccinate 70 percent of adults against corona by the end of summer, Kenya plans the end of July vaccination by five percent of those over the age of 18. Thailand hopes to have vaccinated half of the population by the end of the year, Vietnam has ordered Astrazeneca vaccine doses for 15 million people – out of a population of around 96 million.

Abuja (Nigeria): Bus stops and parks are being disinfected in the wake of the corona pandemic.  (Source: imago images)Abuja (Nigeria): Bus stops and parks are being disinfected in the wake of the corona pandemic. (Source: imago images)

On the African continent, unclear data also contribute to the spread of the Coronavirus to underestimate. In many countries, hardly any corona tests are done, and the virus is hardly typed. In Nigeria Scientists found in a study that around 20 percent of the test subjects already had the corona virus. In some townships in South Africa experts assume that herd immunity already exists.

The vaccine is more expensive for poorer countries

A non-public report to the board of the international vaccination alliance Gavi, quoted by the Reuters news agency, is particularly sobering: According to this, poorer countries and thus billions of people may not be able to do so by 2024 vaccine have received. Gavi is a foundation that, since its inception in 2000, aims to provide universal access to vaccines. According to the aid organization Oxfam, two-thirds of the world’s population may not have access to a vaccine until at least 2022.

But why is that? It’s not just about availability, but – as is so often the case – above all about the money. Many of the richer countries had pre-ordered billions of billions of vaccine doses from the manufacturers and thus secured the first deliveries – a utopian idea for most developing countries. “We haven’t started yet because we don’t have any vaccinations,” said John Nkengasong, the head of the pan-African health authority Africa CDC, recently.

In addition, there are price differences that are not based on solidarity: While the ME pays 1.78 euros for an Astrazeneca vaccination dose, must Uganda for a dose of 7 dollars, or about 5.80 euros, put on the table. “We recognize that this is the reality of global markets,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa chief recently. “It is of course unfortunate that there are poorer countries that pay more than rich countries.” The price differences presumably result from the fact that individual developing countries have a worse negotiating position in discussions with vaccine manufacturers. In addition, the EU has invested a lot of money as an advance for companies in the development and is ordering larger quantities.

“Don’t lie to me”

This is why many developing countries are also dissatisfied with the international distribution of vaccines because promises are not being kept. Cuvax wanted to deliver the first cans to developing and emerging countries in February, but it is still unclear to what extent. Former Rwandan Health Minister Agnes Binagwaho criticized the EU clearly: “Be open and say: ‘My people first.’ Don’t lie to me and say we are equal. ” Kenya’s Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe said it would be “foolish” to depend on Western nations.

Addis Ababa (Ethiopia): Chinese doctors help treat corona patients in the hospital.  (Source: imago images)Addis Ababa (Ethiopia): Chinese doctors help treat corona patients in the hospital. (Source: imago images)

Many developing countries are therefore looking for alternatives and instead become dependent on them China or Russia. “Europe and America are concentrating on themselves, and China has stepped in and invested a lot to get into the African vaccination market, “said Africa scientist Robert Kappel of the University of Leipzig of Deutsche Welle.

Behind this is a tough political calculation: In many African countries, displeasure about the growing Chinese influence had grown in recent years. Beijing now hopes that help in the pandemic will be remembered, including the influence of Europe and the USA to belittle.

The pandemic knows no national borders

“One day the Europeans will come back to Africa and say: ‘We are a better partner for you than the Chinese,'” said Eric Olander from Deutsche Welle’s “China Africa Project”. “And the Africans will say, ‘Where were you when we needed you?'”

Ultimately, China has the advantage that it can produce more vaccine than the EU, for example. But the effectiveness of the Chinese vaccine has not yet been adequately analyzed scientifically. The EU provides a lot of money for the international distribution of vaccines, but does too little for the global distribution of vaccines. For example, as proposed by the WHO, the patents for vaccines could be suspended so that some developing and emerging countries could also help with production.

Because one thing is certain: the more unhindered the virus spreads, the higher the probability that it will mutate again – and vaccines will no longer work. Vaccine nationalism means that there is still a long way to go to global herd immunity.

The pandemic knows no national borders. You also have to vaccinate in developing countries, “otherwise the virus will come back to us on the next plane,” warned the Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller (CSU). “We’re only defeating the pandemic worldwide – or not at all.”

For many developing and emerging countries, there is only one thing left to do at the moment: wait while others are vaccinating.


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