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Africa/Global: Hardly a Dent in #VaccineApartheid

AfricaFocus Bulletin
October 15 , 2021 (2021-10-15)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

“Millions of people remain at risk of dying from COVID-19 because high-income countries (HICs), including the US, continue to hoard excess vaccine doses, warns a new report released [on October 11] by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The international medical humanitarian organization is calling on governments to commit to a concrete plan to redistribute vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) via COVAX or regional procurement bodies by the end of October.”


New Directions for AfricaFocus Bulletin

This AfricaFocus Bulletin is the first since my announcement ( to readers on October 4 that AfricaFocus will be experimenting with new directions, moving away from our classic model focusing on one topic or country, with a short editor's note followed by a selection of selected excerpts on the topic plus recommended links.

In the past,these bulletins have first been made available on the web and by email to subscribers. Social media, such as Facebook and twitter, have been used primarily to promote these bulletins and, and served as supplements to the bulletins, each of which required a fairly intensive research process to produce.

AfricaFocus is not abandoning the basic approach of focusing on a single topic or country in each bulletin. Nor am I abandoning the practice of sending out roughly 2 bulletins each month. But the process needed to change, as communicating rapidly through social media takes on more importance in the media landscape. My conclusion was that to save time and be able to manage multiple communication channels, as well as to do more of my own original writing and other projects, I had to change the work process.

To start with, I have become more active on twitter, saving time and avoiding for the most part the obnoxious twitter interface by using Tweetdeck as well as by a program to also share selected Facebook posts to twitter. For readers who like me can't tolerate twitter, I have created a page on the AfricaFocus site ( which shows the AfricaFocus twitter feed, as well as tweets from selected accounts on twitter that feature tax justice issues in particular.

Then, the twitter feed can then provide much of the content for an issue such as this one.

This note is getting too long. So take a look below, and watch for future changes to come as well.

New Article by AfricaFocus Editor

Foreign Policy in Focus, October 13, 2021
Indigenous Movements are Key to the Fight against Fossil Fuels


That press release from Doctors without Borders came out just weeks before the news of likely approval of a Moderna booster shot, and amid debate about the failure of Moderna to provide doses to African countries despite the fact that their vaccine was funded with public money.

For coverage see:

This was only the latest indication that, despite widespread agreement that the failure to vaccinate populations around the world is necessary to prevent the emergence of variants, the hashtag #VaccineApartheid still applies, based on the fundamental assumption by governments in rich countries that some lives are more valuable than others.

See below for recent articles and for additional links taken from the AfricaFocus twitter feed.

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an affiliate of the non-profit You can access the AfricaFocus Bookshop either through the AfricaFocus Portal or directly on

Purchases made through these provide 10% of the list price to AfricaFocus. Income in addition to the costs of go to independent bookstores around the United States.

Featured Books

Featured Book Lists

New from US-Africa Bridge Building Project

AfricaFocus Bulletin is one of the strategic allies of the project, which focuses on transnational solidarity and tax justice. In 2021, AfricaFocus editor William Minter has collaborated with the project as the principal editor for a series of web posts on transnational solidarity. To date, there are 10 posts in the series, which began in April 2021.

The most recent are an orginal essay by Meredith Terretta and excerpts from a book review by Adom Gegatchew, both released at the end of September. Both focus on aspects of the rich history of the transnational Pan-Africanist movement.

Lawyers Crossing Borders: From Anti-Colonialism to Anti-Apartheid
by Meredith Terretta,
Professor of History, University of Ottawa.
     In the twentieth century, as the Pan-African struggle advanced across the continent, lawyers across the diaspora and in imperial capitals found ways to join hands in solidarity across borders. Victories were limited at the height of colonialism. These long-distance solidarities were not only transnational but also transimperial. They connected people not only across territorial boundaries, but across imperial and linguistic boundaries. More ...

A Fuller Freedom: The Lost Promise of Pan-Africanism
by Adom Getachew, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.
     Had Peter Abrahams, the South African–born novelist, journalist, and Pan-Africanist, not been killed tragically in his Jamaican home in January 2017, he would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. Born in 1919 on the outskirts of Johannesburg to an Ethiopian father and a “colored” (in the parlance of apartheid) mother, Abrahams lived his life along the winding paths of Pan-Africanism in the 20th century. More ...

Global Apartheid: More than a Metaphor

Global apartheid, stated briefly, is an international system of minority rule whose attributes include: differential access to basic human rights; wealth and power structured by race and place; structural racism, embedded in global economic processes, political institutions and cultural assumptions; and the international practice of double standards that assume inferior rights to be appropriate for certain "others," defined by location, origin, race or gender.

Global apartheid thus defined, we believe, is more than a metaphor. The concept captures fundamental characteristics of the current world order missed by such labels as "neoliberalism," "globalization" or even "corporate globalization." Most important, it clearly defines what is fundamentally unacceptable about the current system, strips it of the aura of inevitability and puts global justice and democracy on the agenda as the requirements for its transformation. more

Abstract: The failure to acknowledge race as a fundamental feature of today’s unequal world order remains a striking weakness of radical as well as conventional analyses of that order. Current global and national socioeconomic hierarchies are not mere residues of a bygone era of primitive accumulation. Just as it should be inconceivable to address the past, present, and future of American society without giving central attention to the role of African American struggles, so analyzing and addressing 21st-century structures of global inequality requires giving central attention to Africa. more

The COVID-19 pandemic has both revealed and deepened structural inequalities around the world. Nearly every country has been hit by economic downturn, but the impacts are unevenly felt. Within and across countries, the people who have suffered most are those already disadvantaged by race, class, gender, or place of birth, reflecting the harsh inequality that has characterized our world for centuries.

This deepening inequality haunts our global future. According to a report released by Oxfam in January 2021, “Billionaire fortunes returned to their pre-pandemic highs in just nine months, while recovery for the world’s poorest people could take over a decade.” more

#VaccineApartheid in AfricaFocus Bulletin

Despite the vast disparity in the pace of vaccinations for Covid-19, currently at over 20% having one dose in North America, 5% in the world, and less in 1% for Africa, the United States, other rich countries, and pharmaceutical companies are still rejecting growing demands to waive patents and transfer technology. See chart below and data by country at

“In prepared remarks Monday [April 5] to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs ahead of meetings this week of international finance officials,” according to the Washington Post, Yellen called on richer countries to step up both economic and public health assistance to poorer nations reeling from covid. She noted as many as 150 million people across the world risk falling into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis.”

“This would be a profound economic tragedy for those countries, one we should care about. But, that’s obvious. What’s less obvious — but equally true — is that this divergence would also be a problem for America," Yellen said. “Our first task must clearly be stopping the virus by ensuring that vaccinations, testing and therapeutics are available as widely as possible."

[The full speech, in which Yellen also called for international agreement on a global minimum corporate tax, is available on YouTube at]

This AfricaFocus includes several recent articles and other links documenting the potential to begin to repair this wide gap. The major barrier is political will on the part of those forces still trying to monopolize vaccinations and profits for themselves.


Global vaccine apartheid: it is a blot on the human race, and covax is too feeble a remedy

Times of India, June 4, 2021

by Chetan Bhagat

Chetan Bhagat is a bestselling author and a popular newspaper columnist.

June 4, 2021.

Recently, Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of UN, tweeted that “the richest countries and regions are getting vaccinated more than 30 times faster than those with the lowest incomes. This vaccination gap is not just unfair; it threatens everyone.”

Along similar lines, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, described the ongoing vaccine crisis as “a scandalous inequity” where just 10 countries have received 75% of all vaccines administered so far, while 0.3% have gone to lower-income nations, with the African continent receiving just 1%.

As a child, like many other children my age, I believed that United Nations is a global authority that runs the world. Sadly, I was completely wrong. With its limited powers, the UN can only plead to the world to do the right thing and vaccinate everyone. We, the human race, despite our tremendous achievements, have let ourselves down when it comes to Covid vaccinations across the globe.

The only global effort we have now is WHO’s Covax, a vaccine pooling programme for poorer countries. Limited in scope, it already faces shortages. Even in the best case, it would have provided vaccines to cover only 20% of a nation’s population, far below herd immunity levels. Instead, many countries have received zero doses. A key dependence was on Serum Institute of India, now unable to give vaccines to Covax because of India’s needs. It’s a messy situation. The results are catastrophic.

Vaccine deficient countries continue to face Covid outbreaks and deaths, even as the US, UK and Israel have vaccinated nearly half their population and seen cases drop over 90% from peak levels. Life is almost back to normal there.

Sure, some blame lies on the individual countries for not sourcing vaccines well in time. India for instance, housing one-sixth of humanity, could have done a lot better. In 2020 itself, we could have pre-ordered the promising vaccine candidates. We didn’t. We are suffering badly for it.

However, when you have nearly 100 countries with no vaccines, while a handful have nearly all the supply, something seems terribly wrong at the global, all of humanity level. Ultimately, we are all members of the human race. To say some deserve to live because they have a certain passport, while others don’t, speaks terribly about our species. It’s vaccine apartheid.

A handful of big pharma companies, along with a few proactive governments invested in research and came up with various Covid vaccines. The relatively small ecosystem of players, many of them private, now holds the key to solving this global crisis. Big pharma invented the vaccines. Full respect and credit to them for that. It is their IP. They deserve rewards for it.

However, were these vaccines luxury products, made only for the rich countries? Imagine if the polio or smallpox vaccine was only given to rich nations. Would you still respect the inventors and investors as much?

Of course the current vaccine supply issues can’t just be blamed on big pharma companies. Many governments are guilty of red-tapism or vaccine nationalism or a failure to grasp the urgency of the situation. UN and WHO are to blame for underestimating the need; they did little to partner with vaccine candidates in 2020. Even today, their Covax programme is aid-oriented rather than targeted towards big pharma companies, which is what is needed to make them give up their patents and fix the shortages.

The clear solution to this crisis is to scale up manufacture of vaccines. This requires vaccine IP holding big pharmas to release the patents. This won’t happen with moral appeals, which will only waste time. There’s a need to pay the IP holders a fair price, as that’s the capitalist incentive structure under which they operate. Fortunately, the world can pay this price. Given the alternative economic costs of lockdowns, distressed healthcare systems, and deaths, any country would and should be willing to pay a reasonable market price for vaccines.

Together the UN, WHO, WTO and world leaders need to determine the fair compensation for patent release. This amount can then be paid for by all countries, based on their population and maybe with some consideration for per capita GDP. Once we have the patents, we can step up manufacturing in several plants all over the world, adding to vaccine supply.

Is it morally wrong for big pharma to expect to make a lot of money in such times? We don’t have time to discuss morality issues. We just need to get the vaccination going. In any case, the amounts involved would be no more than a few dollars a person, or a few percentage points of a nation’s GDP, possibly a one-time hit to the fiscal deficit.

The human race needs to get its act together now, else the world would not be vaccinated for the next three years. Rich countries are fooling themselves if they feel they can ride out the pandemic by just vaccinating themselves. Variants from unvaccinated populations are a real risk, even to rich, already vaccinated countries.

And WHO needs a better plan than Covax. Let it not just be a token exercise for rich countries to look good. Poor countries can also pay for the vaccine and they should. Big pharma can get paid for inventing these amazing vaccines. The world can scale up and manufacture more vaccines at more speed. The human race owes it to itself to do this right. Let’s get the world vaccinated, fast.


'Reckless': Doctors Without Borders Slams US for Hoarding 500 Million Vaccine Doses

"The U.S. must immediately make public and concrete commitments to redistribute excess Covid-19 vaccines globally if it truly wants to end this pandemic."

by Jake Johnson

CommonDreams, October 11, 2021

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders unveiled a new report Monday estimating that the United States is hoarding nearly 500 million excess coronavirus vaccine doses—the most of any country—as poor nations across the globe remain without sufficient access to lifesaving shots.

"The rapid redistribution of these doses to low- and middle-income countries could save nearly one million lives by mid-2022."

"It's reckless and dangerous for the U.S. and other high-income countries to be sitting on excessive stocks of Covid-19 vaccines while others... are desperate to provide their most vulnerable people with even their first dose," Dr. Carrie Teicher, director of programs at Doctors Without Borders USA, said in a statement, arguing that the Biden administration's hoarding of doses calls into question "its claim to be a global leader on Covid-19."

"The longer people everywhere remain unprotected, the more lives will be lost and the more likely it is that new and potentially deadlier variants will take hold," said Teicher. "The U.S. must immediately make public and concrete commitments to redistribute excess Covid-19 vaccines globally if it truly wants to end this pandemic."

To date, the Biden administration has pledged to donate roughly 1.1 billion surplus coronavirus vaccine doses to low-income countries, a commitment that public health campaigners have criticized as badly inadequate to meet global needs. According to the State Department, the U.S. has shipped around 177 million vaccine donations thus far.

The World Health Organization has estimated that in order to vaccinate at least 70% of the global population by next year, 11 billion doses—equitably distributed—will be necessary.

Doctors Without Borders—known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)—said Monday that "even while factoring in third-dose boosters for high- risk groups, high-income countries are hoarding an estimated 870 million excess doses," including the nearly 500 million in the U.S. alone.

"The rapid redistribution of these doses to low- and middle-income countries could save nearly one million lives by mid-2022," the group said. "In addition to immediately redistributing vaccine doses globally and demanding Pfizer- BioNTech and Moderna share Covid-19 mRNA vaccine technology, the U.S. must remain committed and urge all countries to support the 'TRIPS waiver' proposal at the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property monopolies on all Covid-19 products during the pandemic."

Last week, the U.S. surpassed 400 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered—a milestone that the Biden White House readily touted. But as Public Citizen president Robert Weissman noted in a statement Friday, "All African countries combined have had roughly 150 million doses administered."

"Africa has a population over 1.34 billion. The U.S. population is 330 million," Weissman said. "Put simply: Africa has four times the population of the U.S. but has administered about one-third the number of Covid vaccine doses... This unconscionable vaccine apartheid is not just leaving billions of people in African and other developing countries vulnerable to preventable disease, suffering, and death, it is dramatically increasing global poverty rates—as well as the death, disease, and hunger that accompanies severe poverty."

In its report on Monday, Doctors Without Borders warned that "millions of doses could be tragically wasted if HICs [high-income countries] do not immediately redistribute excess doses."

"The Covid-19 vaccine inequity that pharma has created by putting profits before people's health is nothing short of shameful."

"G7 and E.U. countries alone could waste 241 million doses by the end of 2021," the group estimated. "Still, pharmaceutical companies continue to prioritize high-profit sales to HICs over a fairer distribution of vaccines."

As the New York Times reported over the weekend, the U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Moderna "has been supplying its shots almost exclusively to wealthy nations, keeping poorer countries waiting and earning billions in profit." Moderna's profits during the global coronavirus pandemic propelled two of its co-founders and one early investor to the Forbes 400 list of the richest people in the U.S.

"After developing a breakthrough vaccine with the financial and scientific support of the U.S. government, Moderna has shipped a greater share of its doses to wealthy countries than any other vaccine manufacturer," the Times noted, citing the data firm Airfinity. "Scientists at the National Institutes of Health worked with the company to develop the vaccine. The United States kicked in $1.3 billion for clinical trials and other research. And in August 2020, the government agreed to preorder $1.5 billion of the vaccine, guaranteeing that Moderna would have a market for what was an unproven product."

The Times report intensified pressure on the Biden administration to use the U.S. government's ownership of a key patent as leverage to force Moderna to share its vaccine recipe with the rest of the world.

"It's not news that a pharmaceutical company puts profits first. That is what companies do," tweeted Amy Maxmen, a reporter at Nature. "The onus is on the U.S. government to put lives over profits, particularly when they give companies massive handouts."

Teicher of Doctors Without Borders said Monday that "the Covid-19 vaccine inequity that pharma has created by putting profits before people's health is nothing short of shameful."

"In addition to developing a concrete dose redistribution timeline by the end of October, the U.S. government must demand that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna share mRNA vaccine technology and know-how with other manufacturers," Teicher added. "Sharing mRNA technologies will increase the global production and supply of Covid-19 vaccines, saving lives in this pandemic and in the future."


AfricaFocus Twitter

In AfricaFocus twitter

AfricaFocus Bulletin @africa_focus

October 8 #VaccineApartheid Using the understated term "vaccine inequality," UN chief Antonio Guterres branded rich nations' vaccine hogging as immoral and stupid.

AfricaFocus Bulletin @africa_focus

October 8

#VaccineApartheid Chatham House: "Current levels of vaccine inequity indicate an almost complete indifference by rich countries to vaccinate high-risk groups in developing countries." – October 4, 2021

AfricaFocus Bulletin @africa_focus

Sep 30

In August, the IMF created $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to support global coronavirus response, $400 billion to wealthy countries and $230 billion to developing countries. End #VaccineApartheid

AfricaFocus Bulletin @africa_focus

Sep 28

Doubling down on #VaccineApartheid New UK rules put additional restrictions based not on the vaccine received but where it was received, including in African countries. An additional burden when Africa has only 4% of its population fully vaccinated.

AfricaFocus Bulletin @africa_focus

Sep 20

As of this week, just over 3% of people in low-income countries, many of whom are also facing devastating surges from deadly variants, have received any dose of Covid-19 vaccine." #VaccineApartheid

AfricaFocus Bulletin @africa_focus

Sep 2

Pressure works. One small victory against #VaccineApartheid. The [almost 20 million] shots packaged by J&J’s South African partner Aspen that were already sent to Europe would be returned.

AfricaFocus Bulletin @africa_focus

Sep 2

"As the richest countries on Earth (and the corporations domiciled within them) lock horns with some of the poorest, the ensuing standoff is taking an intensely personal toll." #VaccineApartheid #southafrica #WTO #Pharma #monopoly