Corona over? ‘Not until the whole world has access to vaccines’

Corona over? ‘Not until the whole world has access to vaccines’

Academics and politicians from all over the world are calling on the European Union and the World Health Organization to share more vaccines with the African continent. The WHO Director-General supports this call, but according to Full Professor Mirjam van Reisen, more needs to be done: “A false picture is being painted of COVID-19 infections in Africa.”

Image: Doug Linstedt / Unsplash

According to the Director-General, the WHO will continue to push for vaccines to be distributed equally and fairly around the world. Earlier, scientists and politicians stated in an incendiary letter that the unequal distribution of vaccines is shocking: “Rich countries have been buying most of the world’s supply without any strategy to meet the needs of low-income countries.” In his response, the Director-General acknowledges this problem and states that the end of the pandemic is not yet in sight as a result.

Mirjam van Reisen, full professor of International Relations, Innovation and Care at Tilburg University, also points out this danger. Together with Tilburg professor Ronald de Jong, she initiated the incendiary letter. In a response to Univers, she states that the coronavirus fires will not be extinguished if vaccines are not distributed fairly. An endless vicious circle of new coronavirus-variant outbreaks is then inevitable.

Less sensitive to vaccines

“New variants develop particularly in areas where the virus is not contained. These variants are less sensitive to vaccines and boosters. The fact that the effects of the Omicron variant are not as bad for us does not mean that the subsequent variant will be as mild. So, to avoid another lockdown, it is also in our self-interest to ensure that Africa has access to a broad vaccination campaign.”

“I gather from the WHO’s response that they underline the urgency of our call,” says Van Reisen. Yet the professor also remains critical. In her view, governments need to put butter on the table and finally start acting on promises made earlier in the pandemic. “The Director-General should have support from the international community. He cannot solve this alone.”

The numbers

But even if that help comes, the problems will not be solved. According to Van Reisen, current African infection rates do not add up. “The economic inequality in Africa means that not everyone is able to take a test, simply because they don’t have the money to get tested.”

“Yet the average of these test results is spread across the entire population. This paints a false picture of COVID-19 infections in Africa.” Not only is the number of infections incorrect as a result, but new variants are less likely to be detected. “This will eventually cost the entire world population dearly.”

Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel

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