The leaders of several African countries criticized what one president called “vaccine apartheid” during the U.N. General Assembly this week, The Associated Press reported.
Namibian President Hage Geingob, whose country was once under apartheid rule, was among a number of African leaders who used their turn at the U.N. podium to expression frustration over wealthy countries hoarding COVID-19 vaccine doses, and calling for intellectual property laws to be relaxed so more doses could be produced by less wealthy nations.
“While committing to save lives now, Namibia wishes to state that saving lives can only be successful once we eliminate vaccine apartheid,” Geingob said, according to the Namibian government-run New Era newspaper.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, said it was “a great concern that the global community has not sustained the principles of solidarity and cooperation in securing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” according to the AP.
“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 percent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than one percent has gone to low-income countries,” he added.
Leaders also took aim at countries like Israel and the United States that are already rolling out booster shots.
“These disparities allow for third doses to be given, in some cases, while, in other cases, as in Africa, the vast majority of the population has not even received the first dose,” Angola’s President João Lourenço said, according to the AP.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has previously issued calls for a COVID-19 booster moratorium among wealthier countries, arguing that a “vaccine injustice and vaccine nationalism” would lead to the emergence of a more serious coronavirus variant.
But that hasn't deterred the U.S., Israel and some European countries from pressing ahead with plans for booster shots.
The Biden administration has said the U.S. can do boosters and supply vaccines to the world. On Wednesday, Biden announced that the U.S. would purchase and donate an added 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses to the international community, and he called on other wealthier nations to do their part.
“The United States is leading the world on vaccination donations,” Biden said during a virtual COVID-19 summit on Wednesday. “As we're doing that, we need other high-income countries to deliver on their own ambitious vaccine donations and pledges.”