Continued vaccine apartheid brought to you by the usual suspects as EU set to throw away 55 million Covid vaccines

Politics and Society

Continued vaccine apartheid brought to you by the usual suspects as EU set to throw away 55 million Covid vaccines

The EU has blocked proposals by the AU that would allow the generic production of COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments and is now set to throw away 55 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines that could have been donated.



The COVID-19 vaccine shuffle like most things is centered in capitalism. When the world was scrambling to find a solution to the alarming death rates, the rhetoric was if ever a solution was found it would be openly shared for the global good.

There was a lot of collective involvement to try and make this a reality including the launch of the COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC), a financing instrument that would support the participation of 92 low and middle-income economies in accessing the donor-funded doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

Why would most African countries need vaccine donations when countries like Senegal and South Africa have shown immense scientific capability during the pandemic? Because of intellectual property (IP) protections that prohibit the generic production of the full range of diagnostics, medications, vaccines, therapeutics, and other relevant health products required for the containment, prevention, and mitigation of COVID-19.

The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver


In 2020, the South African and Indian delegations to the World Trade Organization tabled a proposal for the temporary waive of IP protections governing the above.

In the meeting, the SA delegation argued, “High-minded language on solidarity and global public goods however, has not been matched by tangible steps to share know-how and intellectual property rights to facilitate deep technology transfer in the COVID-19 response. Business as usual approaches will not bring back the countless lives that were lost, neither will it ensure that IP barriers to the prevention, containment, and treatment of COVID-19 will be addressed effectively.”

Despite this impassioned proposal things remain the same because multiple Western countries are not only blocking the proposal, but they are also selling the publicly funded vaccine for exorbitant prices to rich nations. The European opposition to the waiver raised concerns that it would negatively impact pharmaceutical innovation including the development of new or adapted vaccines.

Although big pharma and a portion of the scientific community concur with this concern, the issue is a moral one that has lifesaving and life-threatening implications. Plus, we cannot ignore the financial benefits the EU is getting as the main exporter of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The EU will have to throw away 55 million doses of COVID vaccines by the end of February


To recap, the EU is not the only body benefiting from the vaccines IP, but it is the main exporter that is hoarding vaccines, not doing its share in funding the global response and not supporting the TRIPS waiver.

To compound the situation the EU will throw away 55 million doses of COVID vaccines by the end of February, many more than the 30 million doses they have donated to Africa so far in 2022, according to the People’s Vaccine.

To put this in context, only 60 million of Africa’s total population of 1.22 billion, equivalent to 5%, had been fully vaccinated by the end of September 2021.

“It is estimated that a quarter of a million people have died as a result of COVID-19 in Africa since the beginning of the year (2022), almost 7,000 people a day.” says the organisation.

Popular news sites and health bodies have blamed Africa’s low vaccination rates on logistical problems and vaccine hesitancy. While this is partially true except for Seychelles, Mauritius, and Morocco that have fully vaccinated 80, 72, and 62 percent of their populations respectively, it doesn’t address the root causes of the slow uptake elsewhere. But more on that in a different article.


For now, it is important to note that as the EU throws out vaccines and continues to perpetuate vaccine apartheid. The consequences are a continued global economic recession, uncontrolled outbreaks with a higher risk of virus variants, and persistent unsafe travelling in an era of a currently vaccine-preventable cause of death.

But then again, from historical evidence, the EU’s actions track, and we are more likely to see travel advisories against African travellers than mass COVID-19 countermeasures.

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