COVID-19 has killed over a hundred thousand people across Africa, decimated African economies, and pushed millions of people into poverty and hunger with no end in sight unless there is a shift to ensure immediate full access to vaccines. The virus has profoundly exploited existing inequalities, disproportionately affecting frontline healthcare and other essential workers most of whom are women, and people who were already living in poverty. Ensuring every African can get a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, swiftly and free of charge, is the most effective way to save lives and livelihoods, keep our children in school, reduce unemployment rates and re-open our economies.

Without it, gains made by African countries on issues of food security, democratic governance, gender justice and women’s rights will be reversed completely. Of the 304 million doses administered worldwide so far, fewer than 0.2% have been in Sub-Saharan Africa, home to 14% of the world's population. African countries are not only being pushed further behind the vaccines queue through pharmaceutical companies’ monopolies but are also being over-charged for every dose they procure. It is morally wrong that a country like Uganda, for example, is paying more than 3 times the price for the AstraZeneca vaccine that the far wealthier European Union countries. At this price it would cost Uganda more than double their entire national health budget to vaccinate everyone. This unjustifiably higher price for African countries combined with the high costs for administering the vaccines forces African Governments to make an impossible choice between vaccination and servicing debt as the debt crisis is looming hence compromising States’ efforts to realise core rights and obligations with respect to the right to health.

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*Image by the conversation.com

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