Ramaphosa warns rich countries against vaccine nationalism

The government is “deeply concerned” about vaccine nationalism, President Cyril Ramaphosa said during his address at the World Economic Forum’s Davos Dialogues on Tuesday.

“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines from the manufacturers and developers of these vaccines. And some countries went even beyond and acquired up to four times what their populations need,” Ramaphosa said, during the discussion on South Africa’s economic recovery plan from Covid-19. “And that was aimed at hoarding the vaccines. This is being done to the exclusion of other countries in the world that most need this.”

He spoke about the government’s efforts to help acquire vaccines for African countries. To date, the Covid-19 African vaccine acquisition task team — established to find funding for vaccines — has secured a provisional 270-million doses directly from vaccine manufacturers, he said. This is in addition to the 600-million doses expected from the World Health Organisation’s Covax initiative.

“Through its participation in these continental and global initiatives, South Africa continues to promote the need for universal, fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.”

Ramaphosa’s address comes on the back of his announcement that South Africa will soon receive its first batch of vaccines from India’s Serum Institute. He made this announcement in his weekly open letter on Monday.

The government has been criticised by, for example, the Democratic Alliance for its slow efforts to acquire the vaccine. 

In the letter, Ramaphosa said the first vaccines to arrive would be given to healthcare workers. The second phase will include essential workers, teachers, the elderly and those with comorbidities. The third phase will include other adults in the population. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize briefed the country on the rollout plan in early January.

During the Davos discussion, Ramaphosa implored governments hoarding vaccines to release the excess doses they have ordered. “There is just no need for a country which has about 40-million people to go and acquire 160-million doses. And yet the world needs access to those vaccines.”

A recent epidemiological study commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce found that the global economy stands to lose as much as $9.2-trillion if governments fail to ensure developing countries gain access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The study’s authors used an economic epidemiological model of international production and trade networks to make its findings. The researchers estimate that advanced economies will bear up to 53% of the pandemic’s global economic costs in 2021, even if they achieve universal vaccination in their own countries.

To minimise the pandemic’s domestic economic costs on countries, a globally coordinated push for the production and the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine is required, the study concludes.

“In this paper, we highlight this wisdom from an economic perspective to illustrate that ‘No economy is an island.’ The economic interdependencies of countries imply that the economic drag in one country has immediate grave consequences for the others.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Come what may, the UIF will pay

The fund – the main safety net for unemployed workers – will run at an almost R20-billion deficit

‘Terrorised’ family shines a light on traditional leadership for vulnerable...

The ambiguity between traditional and constitutional leadership has been exposed by the violent banishment of an Eastern Cape family

More top stories

Concourt to hear Zondo commission’s application for contempt order against...

The former president has been one week to file answering papers in the application that also seeks a prison sentence imposed on him

Koko maintains he had no idea he was exchanging emails...

In his four turn on the witness stand, the former Eskom CEO maintains he was tricked into sharing company information with a third party

Zuma foundation claims ex-president was prepared to testify, but Zondo...

Zuma’s namesake organisation twists facts and the law – he told Zondo he would answer questions but only in private to the deputy chief justice

Property developers slap Jo’burg environmentalist and conservancy with R197m lawsuit

Century Property Developments and Riversands Developments are suing for income they have allegedly lost because of objections raised

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…