The COVAX programme of the World Health Organisation has been launched. The first shot was made today in Côte d‘Ivoire. The programme also gives poorer countries access to coronavaccins. In poor countries, mutations of the coronavirus may develop. That is why, according to scientists, it is important that the Western world also has an eye for this region.
“ It shows that cooperation between states prevails,” says Marc Vincent, UNICEF representative in Côte d’Ivoire. “All partners, countries and governments have worked together to get the vaccines here.”
Last week, 500,000 doses of vaccine were delivered in Côte d‘Ivoire. Vaccines were also delivered last week in Ghana. That’s where they start pricking the population tomorrow. Today, the president of the country got a first shot. This is symbolic, to show the inhabitants that it‘s safe.
Also in Côte d’Ivoire, politicians are getting vaccinated to show the population that it is reliable. The more than 500,000 doses of vaccines are free. More than five million people can be vaccinated with it. “The first vaccines go to healthcare workers, defence and security forces and teachers,” says Epa Kouacou. He‘s a vaccination specialist at Unicef Ivory Coast. “After that, the elderly and vulnerable groups will follow.”
Nevertheless, it is far from enough to achieve group immunity, but the country has ambitious plans. “After this we want to vaccinate all people between the ages of 16 and 49,” says Kouacou. “Then almost 70 percent of the population will be vaccinated.” Future vaccines must purchase Côte d’Ivoire itself. According to Vincent, they are already in full consultation with all kinds of parties.
Even though the first vaccines have now been delivered in West Africa, according to correspondent Elles van Gelder, the COVAX programme has to deal with major challenges. This is because rich countries on the continent have started purchasing vaccines, outside Covax.
“ Initially, the idea of the initiative was that rich countries would also buy their vaccines through Covax. By working together globally, you could create real equal access and the whole world would be strong against pharmaceuticals together. Rich countries did join Covax, but did not just want to rely on it and concluded their own bilateral contracts at the same time. They still help poorer countries with their donations but compete with Covax for vaccines at the same time, and win that race.”
Nevertheless, UNICEF representative Marc Vincent continues to believe in the vaccination programme. “The original plan was that vaccines would be available to both rich and poor countries. The fact that the first shipments have now also been sent to poorer countries shows that the cooperation and therefore the platform works.” However, he says that he would like more money to be raised so that all countries can benefit from it.
While Western countries have started buying up vaccines themselves, it is certainly in their interest that people in poorer countries are vaccinated. Van Gelder: “Scientists warn that new mutations can emerge in these poor countries, which can also spread in Western countries. They should therefore not only help low-income countries from a moral point of view.”
There is therefore plenty of discussion about helping poor countries. The United Kingdom says it is going to give Covax the vaccines they have left, but only after they have vaccinated their own population. Other leaders believe that poorer countries should wait too long in this way.
“ Norway has said that they are going to share vaccines with poor countries. Not when they are ‘ready’ at home, but parallel to vaccinating the population of Norway. And French President Macron has suggested that rich countries should immediately share 3 to 5 percent of the vaccines they receive in order to obtain a fairer distribution,” says Van Gelder. “It remains to see if that will happen.”