Public Health Africa-EU after Covid-19 – Panel Discussion on the State of Vaccination on the African Continent

05/10/2021 | Corona

Within the EU State of the Union talks on May 6th 2021, Vice-Rector Giorgia Giovannetti from EUniWell partner University of Florence had a conversation with José Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission, about inequality in the pandemic which hits Africa much harder than Europe and America, remembering that only a very small percentage of people have been vaccinated on the African continent yet. After an opening statement by J.M. Barroso, G. Giovannetti moderated a panel discussion including Jane Kabubo-Mariara, Stefano Manservisi, and Vera Songwe.

Although Africa has managed to resist Covid-19 remarkably well, the economic consequences have been disastrous. For the first time after 25 years of continuous economic growth, Africa is facing a recession. Covid-19 has also led to increased protectionism and a delay in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. Furthermore, Covid-19 may be here to stay and could be the first of a series of “new infections” in a highly interconnected world.

Considering Sub-Saharan African countries’ economic structure, rapid urbanisation, and often unreliable health infrastructures, and accounting for the fact that health security is a global public good, it is particularly important to have rapid and equitable access to vaccines. In many countries, health systems need to be strengthened and logistical capacity for vaccinations should be created.

José Manuel Barroso made clear that the vaccination situation is unfair considering that only 0.2% people of poor countries have been vaccinated. The Gavi institution, chaired by Barroso, has launched the Covax Alliance to ensure equitable distribution, but it has shown to be a hard-fought battle to help poorer countries. The problems reach from supply-chains to vaccine nationalism and unnecessary stockpiling of doses.

Vera Songwe stressed the importance to distribute the vaccines also to the African continent in order to help defeat the pandemic. Jane Kabubo-Mariara pointed out the key challenges of the vaccination for the African continent, which are vaccine nationalism, the vaccine production networks, but also the delivery mechanism. Stefano Manservisi added that the Covax initiative is important for the international stage but not enough for Africa. As the crisis is so big and all the health systems are under stress it is not only the vaccine but more the entire health ecosystem which needs to be reshaped.

José Manuel Barroso, Chair of the Gavi Board and former President of the European Commission 2004-2014

Giorgia Giovannetti, Professor of Economics and Vice Rector for International Relations, University of Florence

Jane Kabubo-Mariara, Executive Director of the Partnership for Economic Policy and Professor of Economics, University of Nairobi

Stefano Manservisi, Special Advisor to Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni and Chair, Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund

Vera Songwe, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa


Picure Rights: European University Institute (EUI)