Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has condemned the lack of equity in vaccine distribution in the world.
In an interview with international media on Wednesday, Okonjo-Iweala-Iweala said the lack of equity in the distribution of the vaccine is unacceptable as African nations struggle to jab their citizens in a lopsided vaccine distribution that has seen countries on the continent struggle.
Okonjo-Iweala says the current inequity seen is not “acceptable by stretch of imagination”. “I mean the good news is 1.1 billion more doses were produced in June, 45 percent higher than May. The bad news is that of this amount to only 1.4 percent went to Africa, and only 0.24 percent to low-income countries,” she said.
“However, there is a donning on everyone, including rich countries and manufacturers. It is in the interest of rich countries to support poor countries to get good access. We are hoping that this donning will lead to changes.”
She also remarked that the WTO will ensure there’s free trading for vaccine manufacturers as Pfizer nears setting up a manufacturing area in Africa after a recent announcement.
“The WTO is really playing a role in trying to make sure we get access to vaccine in trying to make sure we boost production, so members and manufacturers are interested in free trade because any blockage of supply change means we cannot scale up production,” she said.
“Actually in the meeting we had today, there was a universal call for free trade, free movement of goods, and services with respect to vaccine manufacture and the WHO is playing a very strong role in that.
“We are all very happy about the Pfizer announcement which came today, it was during a meeting here in the WTO, where we assemble manufacturers that the announcement came.
She says access to raw materials have been difficult for manufacturers and that has limited the number of vaccines produced so far.
“I think if you talk to manufacturers, they will tell you about the difficulties they have in access to raw materials and supplies, difficulties with supply chain and finding partners.
“These are some of the reasons they gave: vaccines are very difficult to manufacturer, and you have to find quality partners. This would have been good had it happen faster and sooner. Some vaccines companies like AstraZeneca, J&J reached out earlier and established manufacturing partnerships in different parts of the developing world.”
Africa has received the least doses of vaccines in the world with a mere 1.5% of the population vaccinated.