Will COVAX succeed in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine equitably?

The war Against COVID-19 needs a pooling of the best brains in one command post. In this case, one research and development centre manned by the cream of scientists from all parts of the world.

Many a time our sad continent has witnessed self-appointed druids that raised Africans’ hopes only for them to quickly see these hopes dashed. This virus continues to waste away our peoples’ lives and our economies, however hard we try to fight it.

That’s why these “Getafix(es)” – in the genre of the children’s “Asterix” comic – must stop their deceptive, unwelcome announcements of the discovery of a “potion”. Remember how one was announced from the southern part of our continent? Some neighbours sang “Eureka!” to high heaven and shipped in cargo-plane-loads of it, as I remember.

 

Now the “Getafix” that got many elated has gone cold on us, morale-booster, “potion” and all.

 

As to whether the “potion” worked or not, nobody seems overly excited about letting on; mum’s the word. There is thus no knowing what’s responsible for the much celebrated “absence” of the pandemic somewhere; potion or good old prayer?

 

That’s maybe the reason an announcement from Nigeria of progress in the development of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus has received lukewarm, if not sceptic, reception.

Yet this team of scientists sounds credible, especially looking at the credentials of the man who heads it.

Dr. Oladipo Elijah Kolawole is said to be “an IMCR/AU-STRC international Fellow with a PhD in Medical Virology and Immunology from Lakode Akinta University of Technology. Currently, he is a lecturer at the Department of Microbiology, Adekele University.”

The good doctor “does research in Infectious Diseases caused by Viruses which covers the aspect of Immunology, Bioinformatics, Molecular Biology and Antimicrobial Resistance.” Researchers don’t come any more solid than this.

His areas of specialisation all sound like Greek to me but, if you ask me, I think they look like they have the power to scare away this virus. In fact, the solid professor says his team is ready to test the vaccine on humans. I think it deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt.

“The vaccine is real,” asserts Dr. Kolawole. “We have validated it several times. It is targeted at Africans but will also work for other races. It will work. It cannot be faked…. It took a lot of scientific efforts.” Tell me, what’s more convincing than that?

Of course, everybody has developed cold feet and it’s not only because of the inexplicable silence of “Getafix” after excited claims of the magical “potion”. There is also the fact of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine study in the UK being put on hold because during its trial it had adverse effect on a participant.

Any idea of the progress of the trial participant? Anybody in the know, wise me up.

This then shows that, this threat being a global concern, we should put aside our differences and combat it together as a global community. And, while at that, it does not help to go hurling insults at an imagined enemy-country and blaming the virus on its diabolical mind-function.

Even if this viral enemy sprang from one country, today it’s attacking us all. To counter-attack it, we need all hands on deck. So, USA and China, rest your case for the sake of us all.

Dr. Kolawole, as we say in Kinyarwanda, a message may be given to many but it will be appreciated by they to whom it’s targeted (Abwirwa benshi akumva bene yo). That’s why I hope that you and your team have thought of throwing your hat in the ring that’s COVAX.

COVAX is ‘refereed’ by the World Health Organisation (WHO), in partnership with the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Global Alliance for Vaccines (Gavi) and the Vaccine Alliance, which is not necessarily the core of its appeal.

The core of COVAX’s appeal is that it will ensure that all countries, rich or poor, have access to a safe, effective vaccine. That lower-income countries will get financial support to access the vaccine on equal terms as higher-income countries; distribution fair for all countries.

That what has been called “vaccine nationalism”, when individual countries may rush to hoard stockpiles for their citizens, will be avoided. That the vaccine will be for the global citizenry.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of candidate vaccines competing for validation in different research and development laboratories scattered in practically all countries of the world. Which means whichever vaccine touches the finishing line first will want to charge an arm and a leg!

Yet governments, vaccine manufacturers, other organisations and individuals have only been able to commit US $1.4bn to COVAX, when much more is needed.

This is how the likes of Dr. Kolawole come in. Scattered, uncoordinated movements of troops have never been good in any war, which is why the world should have opted for a united force.

The war Against COVID-19 needs a pooling of the best brains in one command post. In this case, one research and development centre manned by the cream of scientists from all parts of the world. Such an amalgamation product vaccine would be a property of the world.

Otherwise, my penny-bet is that averting “vaccine nationalism” will be next to impossible.

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