Destruction of expired COVID-19 vaccines in Africa a shame for the West: Global Times editorial
Published: Dec 26, 2021 03:33 PM
A truck offloads expired AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines into a pit at the Gosa dump site in Abuja, Nigeria on December 22, 2021. Photo: AFP

A truck offloads expired AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines into a pit at the Gosa dump site in Abuja, Nigeria on December 22, 2021. Photo: AFP

Nigeria has recently had to destroy more than 1.06 million doses of expired AstraZeneca vaccines. Faisal Shuaib, head of Nigeria's National Primary Health Care Development Agency, condemned that "We had developed countries that procured these vaccines and hoarded them. At the point they were about to expire, they offered them for donation." He also announced recently that Nigeria would no longer accept such donations. Previously, some media outlets had disclosed that through the WHO's COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), some of the doses arrived in Nigeria from Europe within four to six weeks of expiry, and could not be used in time.

This is not an isolated case. Reports showed that Senegal is likely to destroy approximately 400,000 doses of expired COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this year. Malawi burned nearly 20,000 doses of expired COVID-19 vaccines in May, and the Democratic Republic of Congo also returned in April 1.3 million doses of vaccines for the same reason. The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and COVAX recently issued a joint statement, calling for the improvement of the quality of COVID-19 vaccine donations to African countries.

To a large extent, this is the result of the early crazed hoarding of vaccines by the US and its partners. They rushed to order a variety of vaccines in 2020 when the vaccines were still in the development stage. By June 2021, the total number of vaccines hoarded in the US had far exceeded its domestic demand. According to statistics, the US and its partners also hold about 240 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that are about to expire. They would rather leave the surplus vaccines in warehouses than provide them to countries that really need them. These countries will not think of selling or "donating" them to developing regions such as Africa until the vaccines are about to expire. In this way, the US and its partners "fulfill" the promises they made about vaccine donation, squeezing out the very last value of the vaccines about to expire.

The WHO-led vaccine distribution mechanism has disclosed that the majority of the vaccine donations made to date to African countries have been ad hoc, provided with very short notice and even shorter shelf lives. The result is that many developing countries not only do not receive the much-needed help, but also have to instead become "large-scale vaccine waste treatment plants" for the US and the West. The US and its partners' hypocritical strategy against the pandemic is hampering the world's COVID-19 fight. Many experts have warned that the emergence of Omicron is the consequence of the over-hoarding of vaccines by and in wealthy countries, and the emergence of new variants has made these countries continue to hoard vaccines, leading the COVID-19 fight into a vicious circle.

Illustration:Liu Rui/GT

Illustration:Liu Rui/GT

Today, the Omicron variant has surpassed Delta as the leading cause of the COVID-19 infection in the US. This is a reminder to the US and its allies that no matter how many doses they give to their nationals, the virus will still come after them if global vaccination rates do not rise. As of today, only 7.5 percent of the 1.3 billion people in Africa have been fully vaccinated, while the US and its allies are still stockpiling vaccines even though it has been on the market for a year. Former British prime minister Gordon Brown warned in September that by the end of this year, 100 million doses of the vaccines will be anticipated to have been wasted worldwide in developed countries. 

The US and its allies have some nerve playing "saviors" despite their obvious selfishness. US President Joe Biden has proclaimed, "Just as in World War II America was the arsenal of democracy, in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation is going to be the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world." But it turns out that both "arsenals" constitute massive lies and hypocrisy from the US to the world. As the US emphasizes its renewed "leadership" in the fight against the pandemic, its "leadership" has been destroyed along with the expired vaccines to African countries.  

In sharp contrast, China, on which they have put on the label "vaccine diplomacy," has provided more than 180 million doses of vaccines to 53 African countries and the African Union Commission. It's worth noting that China's foreign vaccine delivery is synchronized with domestic vaccination, in contrast with some Western countries that stockpile large quantities of vaccines at first and then "donate" them when they are coming to expire. 

During the recent 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China pledged to provide an additional 1 billion doses of vaccines to Africa, including 600 million doses as a donation. To date, China has provided nearly 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations, being the world's largest provider of vaccines to foreign countries and regions. China is committed to its pledge to promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.  

The coronavirus disease sees no borders, so the end of this pandemic will depend upon the weakest country in prevention. Some comments say that Africa has become one of the "key battlegrounds" in the global fight against the pandemic. If the US and its allies really want to contribute to this fight, they should stop treating Africa as a "large vaccine waste treatment plant," stop putting geopolitics above science, and stop the "vaccine nationalism" that harms both others and themselves.