Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·


Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·


Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·


With GOP House Control Looming, Pascrell Calls for Swift Release of Trump Tax Records

"Donald Trump tried to hide his tax returns from our oversight but after 1,329 days we have finally obtained the documents," said the New Jersey Democrat. "We should review and release them."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo