Gordon Brown criticizes the export of “10 million” J&J vaccines from South Africa to Europe

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Photo by Gallo Images / Sunday Times / James Oatway)

  • Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has spoken out against the unjust distribution of vaccines.
  • According to Brown, around 10 million Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccines, filled and packaged at the Aspen facility in South Africa, would be exported to Europe.
  • Brown said a threat from President Cyril Ramaphosa secured more vaccines for Africa.

Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has spoken out against the unfair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and criticized the export of cans made in Africa to Europe.

In a column published Monday in the Guardian, Brown lamented what he called “vaccine nationalism”.

“In fact, this month and next, I learned from African leaders that around 10 million are grappling with the deadliest wave of Covid-19 infections to date,” he wrote.

Aspen signed a contract with Johnson & Johnson to package vaccines at its Gqeberha plant and at the end of last month released the first vaccines to South Africa – and exported them to the EU.

Brown said western countries had pledged to deliver 700 million vaccines to Africa by the end of the year, but the multinational Covax facility – which should ensure vaccines for poorer countries – could only source 60 million vaccines.

The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, which represents countries in the African Union, then negotiated a contract for 400 million individual vaccines with Johnson & Johnson. “In doing so, she had to overcome the resistance of the EU,” wrote Brown.

“It was only after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa intervened and threatened to ban all vaccine exports from South Africa that Europe agreed that all future J&J made in Africa vaccines could remain in Africa from October,” he added. Brown noted that because of this, 30% of the continent’s adult population would be vaccinated – but it could be until September 2022 for that point to be reached.

Aspen said it couldn’t comment on Brown’s column because the vaccines were a J&J product by J&J and it was not responsible for distributing the vaccines. J&J has not yet responded to Fin24’s questions.

In his column, Brown noted that of the 4.7 billion vaccines distributed worldwide, more than 80% went to the richest G20 countries. “The gap between rich and poor is now so great that high-income countries have given nearly 100 doses per 100 citizens and low-income countries just 1.5 doses per 100,” Brown wrote.

As Western governments prepare to give booster doses, African countries are lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to vaccination. Brown quoted what some African leaders refer to as “vaccine apartheid”. Brown said 50% of the adult population in Europe, the US and the UK are now fully vaccinated. In comparison, only 8% of the Indian population are vaccinated and 1.8% of the African population are vaccinated.

The World Health Organization (WHO) dashboard shows that on August 11, one in 61 people, or 1.63% of people in low-income countries, received at least one dose. By comparison, more than half (53.79%) of people in high-income countries received a dose.

Low-income countries had to increase their health spending by 56.6% to cover the cost of vaccinating 70% of their population. According to the WHO, countries with high incomes only had to increase their spending by 0.8%.

The uneven distribution of vaccines is reflected in the uneven global economic recovery. The International Monetary Fund has warned that the slow adoption of vaccines will have a negative impact on emerging and developing countries.

Brown urged the G7 to ensure vaccines get to the countries where they are most needed, especially as the US, Canada and the EU have secured additional doses at the expense of African nations.

“Ensuring access to vaccines for the African population is not only a must for Africa. It’s in all of our enlightened self-interest, ”wrote Brown. “We have to keep reminding ourselves of the reason for mass vaccination around the world: no one is nowhere safe until everyone is safe everywhere, and everyone will live in fear until no one does.”

Read the whole column here.

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