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Kampala Declaration decries vaccine injustice

By Jeremy Booth, Dental Tribune International
July 20, 2021

KAMPALA, Uganda: Clear demands have been made of the international community concerning equity in the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The Kampala Declaration on COVID-19 Vaccine Equity, which was signed during the recent World Health Summit Regional Meeting in Uganda in June, calls for an end to “vaccine egoism and nationalism” and for the sharing of vaccine doses with low- and middle-income countries.

“No one is safe until all are safe,” stresses the two-page declaration in its opening line. It urges political leaders, organisations, civil society and industry to fight for equity in the production and distribution of vaccine doses.

The declaration states that vaccine injustice divides the world into two groups—those that have access to COVID-19 vaccines and those that do not—and increases the risk of more aggressive mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus developing in areas where doses are scant. “There is no time to lose. Fast and effective measures are needed to tackle the present situation and to increase preparedness for the future,” the declaration reads.

In the last of its nine points, the declaration concludes: “[This] crisis reminds us to foster the spirit of collaboration, solidarity, and cooperation instead of practising vaccine egoism and nationalism. We need to transform universal health coverage to include universal health preparedness, prevention, and universal health solidarity.”

The declaration was signed on 29 June by 15 parties in the Ugandan capital, including President of the Republic of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Prof. Axel Radlach Pries, president of the World Health Summit.

Daniela Levy of the World Health Summit told Dental Tribune International that news of the declaration and the regional summit was published by more than 50 media outlets mostly based in Africa but including Deutsche Welle and the BBC. When asked what tools the World Health Summit and signatories to the declaration had to spread the word about vaccine equity, she said that bringing together leaders from politics, science, medicine, the private sector and civil society would set the agenda on track for a healthier future.

“We need to transform universal health coverage to include universal health preparedness, prevention, and universal health solidarity” – the Kampala Declaration

“The academic backbone of the World Health Summit is the M8 Alliance, a worldwide network of 30 leading academic medical institutions,” Levy explained. “Together, the World Health Summit and the M8 Alliance act as catalysts to stimulate the stakeholders from these sectors to address and tackle the imminent questions of global health.”

Europe urged to act on COVID-19 vaccine equity

In a note to the press that outlined the key messages of the declaration, Pries called on Europe—a major producer of COVID-19 vaccines—to take the lead. He said: “High-income countries, representing about 20% of the global adult population, hold over half of the doses globally available (almost five billion), enough to vaccinate twice their populations. In contrast, the low- and middle-income countries are left behind, not allowing them to adequately protect their inhabitants.”

The World Health Summit is held under the patronage of Europe’s most powerful politicians—the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen—as well as Ghebreyesus of WHO. The Kampala regional meeting took place in the lead-up to the World Health Summit 2021, which will convene in a hybrid format in Berlin in Germany from 24 to 26 October, and Pries’s statement adds weight to growing criticism of the bloc’s COVID-19 vaccine policies.

The European Commission has reportedly secured a deal with Pfizer to purchase 1.8 billion doses of the pharmaceutical company’s vaccine to be used for third booster shots for EU populations to be administered by 2023, provoking strong criticism from WHO. At a press briefing, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO, said: “At this point ... there is no scientific evidence to suggest that boosters are definitely needed.” She explained that a recommendation on booster doses “has to be based on the science and data, not on individual companies declaring that the vaccines should now be administered as a booster dose”.

Dr Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, called on rich countries to donate supplies of the scarce medical commodity to developing countries instead of using them as booster shots—the science behind which is yet to be proved. Ryan said that, if rich nations administer third shots rather than sharing doses with developing countries who have not yet immunised their populations, “we will look back in anger and I think we will look back in shame”.

“This is people who want to have their cake and eat it” – Dr Michael Ryan, WHO

“This is people who want to have their cake and eat it,” Ryan said at the 12 July briefing. “Then they make some more cake and they want to eat that as well.”

By 10 July, the EU had delivered around 500 million vaccine doses to its member states, enough to fully inoculate at least 70% of the bloc’s adult population. Of the African continent’s 1.3 billion inhabitants, just 2% were fully vaccinated by 11 July, according to AP, and just 1% of people in low-income countries had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 15 July, according to the social research project Our World in Data.

More than 80% of the 3.2 billion vaccine doses that were administered globally by 4 July had gone to high-income and upper-middle-income countries, according to a 5 July article in Nature. At a G7 summit in June, the US pledged to donate 500 million doses to low- and middle-income countries by the end of next year, bringing the total of doses pledged by the US to more than 587 million. The UK pledged 100 million doses and France, Germany and Japan each pledged 30 million doses.

COVAX has so far shipped over 121 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 136 countries participating in the COVAX vaccine pool.

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