ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF

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Collective leadership and international cooperation are needed to reach global herd immunity, writes Bogolo Kenewendo

The world is still vaccinating the few while neglecting the many,” Amujae Leader and G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council Member Bogolo Kenewendo wrote in an article for Foreign Policy

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted grave inequalities between the world’s developed and developing countries—an aspect that has carried through to global vaccine distribution efforts, Ms. Kenewendo wrote. While some rich countries have stockpiled enough vaccine doses to immunize their entire population multiple times, countries with weaker economies, which have been further decimated during the pandemic, can’t afford to procure vaccines and may not achieve widespread vaccination until 2023.

This is the case for many countries in Africa, said Ms. Kenewendo. She pointed out that, even before the pandemic, “most African nations still had a long way to go toward meeting the Abuja Declaration target of allocating 15 percent of government budgets health.” Now, facing an economic crisis, “how are African and other developing countries’ governments supposed to mobilize more funding for vaccination campaigns?”

However, this bleak outcome could be subject to change, Ms. Kenewendo said:

“f rich countries… support the temporary patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments… It would help scale up vaccine production, research, and the production of medical equipment in less wealthy countries.”

African countries should also invest in their readiness for vaccine distribution, Ms. Kenewendo said. Preparing for the management and logistics in advance “will be key to averting vaccines expiring before they can be used, as has happened in some countries.” To ensure the effectiveness of vaccine programs, government leaders should also be ready to work collaboratively: 

“African governments partner with the private sector to tap into existing expertise in finance, distribution, and logistics—while governments focus on expediting regulatory approvals, planning, and coordination.”

Ultimately, a multilateral approach is required to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic for people everywhere, wrote Ms. Kenewendo: “Collective leadership and international cooperation are imperative for ensuring sufficient production distribution of life-saving vaccines.”

Read the full article in Foreign Policy here.

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