Gordon Brown Calls Out The EU On Their “Neocolonial Approach” To COVID-19 Vaccine Supplies

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called out the EU on its “neocolonial approach” to COVID-19 vaccine supplies. In a Guardian article, Brown writes, “[i]n a shocking symbol of the west’s failure to honour its promise of equitable vaccine distribution, millions of COVID vaccines manufactured in Africa that should have saved the lives of Africans have been shipped to Europe.” While Africa is experiencing its third wave of the pandemic, African leaders have informed Brown that around 10 million single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines produced in the Aspen factory in South Africa will be exported to Europe over this month and the next. Aspen Pharmacare also produces vaccines for the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisition Trust as part of a deal with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture 400 million doses through 2022. However, allocations to African countries that have already purchased doses are being limited by the factory’s production capacity.

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that deaths rose by more than 40% in one week, as the total weekly death toll reached 6,273. This number falls just shy of the 6,292 peak reached in January. While WHO has also reported that vaccine supply to Africa has improved over the last two weeks, mainly due to donations from wealthier nations and COVAX, total vaccination rates remain low with less than 2% of the continent’s population being fully vaccinated. In comparison, in the EU, UK and U.S. over 50% of the population is fully vaccinated. Africa is also far behind other less-developed nations like India where 8% of the population is has had all their shots. WHO is now saying that it is unlikely that 47 out of 54 African nations will meet that modest goal of having 10% of the population fully vaccinated by September.

The African Vaccination Acquisition Trust has expressed its disappointment with the West over its failure to fund the delivery of 700 million vaccines to this continent by the end of 2021. So far this figure is at 60 million. At this current rate, Brown has said that there is no hope for Africa to reach the vaccination rates of the West this year or even the next. The issue is not the supply of vaccines, as by December this year the world will have produced a further 6 billion doses. This is enough to have 60% of the entire global population vaccinated by June next year. Yet for this target to be achieved, Western nations need to take serious action on their commitment to equitable vaccine distribution. For this to occur, there needs to be a level of global cooperation and leadership among the G-7 and G-20 that has been lacking since the outbreak of the pandemic.

In attempts to bring global leadership together, Brown has called on Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, and Mario Draghi to convene a G-20 special vaccine summit next month to coincide with the United Nation’s General Assembly meeting in New York. He has also called on country’s with excess supplies to “release their stranglehold” on vaccines and future supplies of them and donate them to African countries. On top of this Brown has also stated that these nations must meet the IMF’s proposal to donate $50 billion in funding through COVAX to ensure vaccines are administered quickly and safely. Getting the majority of Africa’s population fully vaccinated is in the interest of the entire global community, and with countries in Africa experiencing their third and fourth waves, they need the help of the world’s wealthier nations now more than ever. It is crucial for all these countries to work together to address this vaccine deficit, both in Africa and the rest of the developing world.