South Africa's president criticizes 'vaccine nationalism'

FILE In this Friday, April 24, 2020 file photo, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visits a field hospital in Johannesburg. Ramaphosa has announced he has gone into quarantine after coming into contact with a dinner guest who has tested positive for COVID-19. He came into contact with a guest at a dinner of 35 people in Johannesburg last weekend, the president's spokesman said Wednesday, Oct. 28. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

JOHANNESBURG – South African president and African Union chairman Cyril Ramaphosa has called on richer nations to release surplus vaccine doses to the rest of the world.

Delivering an address Tuesday to the virtual World Economic Forum dialogue, Ramaphosa highlighted the African Union’s efforts to secure vaccines for African nations and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the continent.

“We are deeply concerned about the problem of vaccine nationalism, which, unless addressed, will endanger the recovery of all countries," he said.

“Ending the pandemic worldwide will require greater collaboration on the rollout of vaccines, ensuring that no country is left behind in this effort,” said Ramaphosa.

According to Ramaphosa, some countries have acquired more doses than they need to vaccinate their populations.

“Rich countries in the world are holding on to these vaccines and we are saying ‘Release the excess vaccines that you have ordered and hoarded.' There is just no need for a country which perhaps has about 40 million people to go and acquire 120 million doses or even 160 million and yet the world needs access to those vaccines,” he said.

The African Union’s vaccine acquisition task team had acquired 270 million vaccine doses directly from manufacturers in addition to the 600 million doses to be acquired from the global COVAX facility, he said.

South Africa itself has procured more than 20 million doses directly from vaccine manufacturers, said Ramaphosa. It is to get another 6 million through the COVAX facility, which means the country must acquire 14 million more vaccines to accomplish its goal of vaccinating about 67% of its population of 60 million by the end of 2021.