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Archbishop of Cape Town urges Biden administration to share vaccines with global South

05 February 2021

A commuter waits for a taxi driver at the Baragwanath taxi rank in the town of Soweto, Johannesburg, in South Africa, in December

A commuter waits for a taxi driver at the Baragwanath taxi rank in the town of Soweto, Johannesburg, in South Africa, in December

THE Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, has written an urgent email to top health officials in the new Biden administration, asking for their intervention to make sure that United States vaccines are made available to countries in the global South.

Dr Makgoba addressed the email, sent on 30 January, to Dr Anthony Fauci, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr Rochelle Walensky, the new director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He demanded vaccine access for South Africa and the global South, or, he said, the world would face a global disaster.

Raising the alarm about a “moral catastrophe”, he wrote on behalf of the People’s Vaccine Campaign, made up of South African civic organisations, workers’ formations, and individuals. He said that the US pharmaceutical company Moderna should share its “technology and vaccine know-how with the world during the pandemic (not after), including with the World Health Organization”.

Voluntary vaccine-supply mechanisms, such as COVAX, he said, were failing the global South. “This dire shortage of vaccine supplies is not due to any inherent technological limitation in scaling up production, but rather a seemingly deliberate decision to not allow production scale up to what the global pandemic requires.”

He suggested that “a combination of investment in immediate capacity scale up (centralized) capacity and a concerted effort to facilitate technology transfer could help rapidly solve this problem.”

The Covid-19 epidemic, he said, was “out of control” in South Africa, and the health-care system was severely strained. South Africa is battling the effects of the new B.1.351 variant. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center said that, in January 2021, 396,600 people contracted Covid-19, of whom 15,224 had died.

Dr Makgoba said that, without global immunity, new variants and strains would emerge. “It is clear we have no time to waste, as we understand that the longer it takes to vaccinate the entire world, the harder it will become to contain the virus.”

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