Johannesburg - The lack of equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed, says the World Health Organization regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.
Moeti was speaking at the World Health Day event hosted by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday.
Globally over 400 million vaccine shots have been administered worldwide and only about 11 million have been administered in Africa. In South Africa, over 250 000 health-care workers have been vaccinated.
Moeti said that to ensure the safety of the world, vaccination access has to be broadened and everyone should get a vaccine. She said the pandemic had brought into sharp focus the health inequalities prevalent globally.
She cited examples of a shortage of personal protective equipment in some African countries along with testing kits, and now there is only a small supply of vaccines.
Moeti appealed to global leaders to work together to address these inequalities by ensuring a sharing of excess vaccines from rich countries and for pharmaceutical manufacturers to ensure they expand on their capacity.
She said South Africa needed to better invest in health care to help avoid a repetition of the responses experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic. Moeti applauded South Africa's drive for universal health insurance, although this plan has been put on hold due to the pandemic.
Mkhize shared similar concerns on the inequalities. He said the country had learnt many lessons from the pandemic. One of these is the urgent need to expand Africa's vaccine manufacturing capabilities. He said the continent could not be left to rely on other countries.
Aspen pharmaceuticals were the company in Africa with the capabilities of manufacturing vaccines, Mkhize said.
The minister said the pandemic had also shown the need for national health insurance to be speedily implemented – which could help address issues around universal health care access.
"The implementation of national health insurance is seen as a critical intervention that will assist in restructuring the core components of the health system,” Mkhize said.