Coronavirus

Where Are The Doses? How U.S. And Europe Vaccine Pledges Look In Africa

Following bold promises from Western leaders to send millions of jabs to the developing world, there is still an extreme shortage in most African countries.

Taking the temperature of a Kenyatta National Hospital staff member in Nairobi

Taking the temperature of a Kenyatta National Hospital staff member in Nairobi

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

In recent weeks, European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen and U.S. President Joe Biden have very publicly doubled down on commitments to help vaccinate the whole world against COVID-19, donating hundreds of millions of additional doses to try to save lives in developing countries and defeat the global pandemic once and for all.

"To beat the pandemic here we need to beat it everywhere," Biden said last week announcing the U.S. was buying 500,000 more vaccine doses to share with other countries. "This is an all hands on deck crisis."

But in many places, the situation on the ground is lagging behind the public promises. In Africa, the world's least vaccinated continent, the global Covax initiative aims to raise the vaccinated rate from the current 3.6% to 40% by March 2022. But as Jeune Afrique magazine reports, obtaining the 470-million doses to make it possible will be a serious challenge.

Colonial connections 

"We complained about a lack of transparency," Aurélia Nguyen, managing director of the Covax Facility, tells Jeune Afrique. "We have the funding and the contracts to vaccinate 37% of the African population byl March, but we will need a very rapid increase in deliveries to achieve our goals."

Given its colonial connections and geographic proximity, European countries like Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal have decided to largely focus on Africa for their Covax donations.

Still, Africa has only received 167 million doses so far (67 million through Covax) and the 27 EU member countries have delivered just 60% of its promised deliveries. For its part, the United Kingdom has donated at least 35 million vaccines to Africa. Significantly, the majority of these doses are AstraZeneca, which because of issues with blood clots, often are looked at wearily by vaccine skeptics.

As long as rich countries take vaccines off the market, Africa will not meet its targets.

In terms of the cost of these donations, the EU is not significantly behind other countries, having so far spent over $2.5 billion on Covax, compared to the United States' $2.6 billion. Although, this might seem low given contributions by singular nations, for example Japan's $1 billion, accounting for 10% of global financial commitments to Covax.

A sign explains who can get a jab first during the first phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program at Mbagathi Hospital, in Nairobi, Kenya — Photo: Robert Bonet/NurPhoto/ZUMA

Vaccine inequity

Advocates are still demanding more from the EU: Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, a French member of the European Parliament and co-chair the Board of Covax shareholders, sent a letter to President von der Leyen earlier this month asking for an additional 4-billion-euro contribution to Covax. This would give leverage to a more ambitious objective of achieving 60% vaccination coverage in low and middle income countries by the first half of 2022. But von der Leyen didn't follow this guidance, instead promising 200 million additional Covax vaccines by mid-2022 during her September 15 State of the Union speech.

The EU has chosen a more long-term approach to aiding Africa through the pandemic, investing one billion euros to develop the technology and infrastructure to produce and distribute vaccines domestically. In July, Brussels gave the green light to support vaccine manufacturing at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal. But the question remains whether this will do enough to reduce vaccine inequality, with African vaccine coverage inching toward 20% by the end of the year.

And as Western countries around the world consider third doses to boost vaccine efficacy, first doses for poorer countries might become even more scarce. As Dr Matshidiso Moeti, regional director of the World Health Organization, tells Jeune Afrique, "As long as rich countries take vaccines off the market, Africa will not meet its targets."

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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