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Expired vaccines pictured at a dumpsite

Expired Covid-19 vaccines are pictured at a dump site in Abuja, Nigeria on December 22, 2021. (Photo: Peter Oba/Xinhua via Getty Images)

'Shameful': EU Set to Trash More Vaccine Doses Than It Has Donated to Africa

"This vaccine apartheid―perpetuated by the E.U.―has a brutal human cost," said one campaigner. "We need the TRIPS waiver now."

Jake Johnson

A new analysis released Wednesday by the People's Vaccine Alliance shows that by the end of February, the European Union will have to throw away almost twice as many coronavirus vaccine doses as it has donated to Africa so far this year.

"They hoarded vaccines, they ordered more vaccines than their populations require."

Citing data from Airfinity, the alliance notes that 55 million of the E.U.'s coronavirus vaccine doses are set to expire by month's end. So far this year, the E.U.—the world's largest exporter of Covid-19 shots—has donated around 30 million doses to Africa, where just 11% of the adult population is fully vaccinated two years into the deadly global pandemic.

The People's Vaccine Alliance also highlights figures showing that 204 million people living in E.U. countries have received booster shots while just 151 million people in Africa have been fully vaccinated.

"European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the beginning of the pandemic that the vaccine should be a global public good," Joab Okanda, Pan Africa senior advocacy adviser for Christian Aid, pointed out in a statement Wednesday. "Yet instead, she has ensured it is a private profit opportunity, raking in billions for Big Pharma and the E.U. while almost nine out of 10 people in Africa aren't fully vaccinated."

"This is shameful," said Okanda.

The new analysis from the People's Vaccine Alliance was published a day before the start of the sixth E.U.- African Union summit in Brussels on Thursday, a gathering that comes as European and African leaders remain locked in a tense dispute over whether to suspend intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics.

The African Union has expressed support for a temporary patent waiver and technology transfer efforts aimed at empowering low-income countries to produce generic Covid-19 vaccines for their populations. But for more than a year, the E.U. has blocked South Africa and India's proposed patent waiver at the World Trade Organization, infuriating African leaders who say Europe is entrenching a system of "vaccine apartheid."

"They hoarded vaccines, they ordered more vaccines than their populations require," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said of European nations in December. "The greed they demonstrated was disappointing, particularly when they say they are our partners."

AFP reported Tuesday that the African Union is working to force a demand for a patent waiver into the summit's concluding document, but the effort is facing resistance from top E.U. member countries such as Germany, which is home to Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine partner BioNTech.

"The African Union... urges the European Union to engage constructively towards the conclusion of a targeted and time-limited waiver," reads an African proposal seen by AFP.

In the absence of a patent waiver, African nations have been forced to rely heavily on vaccine charity from rich countries—an arrangement that has been plagued by a number of serious issues, including doses arriving close to their expiry dates.

In November, Nigeria was forced to toss hundreds of thousands of unused vaccine doses that arrived from Europe within weeks of expiration.

Sani Baba Mohammed, the Public Services International regional secretary for Africa and Arab countries, said in a statement Wednesday that "it is encouraging that the African Union is standing up to the EU and asking for a reference to the TRIPS waiver to be included in the summit's outcome document."

"The E.U. claims they are promoting a 'prosperous partnership of equals' with the African Union―yet they are throwing more vaccine doses in the trash than they are donating to us, while continuing to block a waiver on vaccine patents which would enable us to produce our own vaccines," said Mohammed. "What's equal about that?"
 
"This vaccine apartheid―perpetuated by the E.U.―has a brutal human cost," Mohammed continued. "Our livelihoods continue to be destroyed, our economies shattered, our health workers pushed beyond the brink... We need the TRIPS waiver now and the E.U. must stop standing in the way."


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