- Cuthbert Ncube, chairman of the African Tourism Board has been pushing to scale up COVID-19 vaccines in Africa. He says Tourism has been left out of such discussions.
- World Tourism Network Chairman Juergen Steinmetz urges for tourism to be part of the discussions. Tourism is an essential economic sector for many countries and cannot function without both industry professionals and visitors to be vaccinated.
- The heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), and World Trade Organization (WTO) met with the leaders of the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), Africa CDC, Gavi, and UNICEF to rapidly scale up vaccines in low- and lower-middle-income countries, particularly in Africa.
“These countries, the majority of which are in Africa, simply cannot access sufficient vaccine to meet even the global goals of 10 percent coverage in all countries by September and 40 percent by end 2021, let alone the African Union’s goal of 70 percent in 2022”, the UN officials said.
A crisis of vaccine inequity is driving a “dangerous divergence” in COVID-19 survival rates and in the global economy, the agency heads stated, expressing gratitude for “the important work” of AVAT and COVAX in trying to address the “unacceptable situation”.
However, they warned, “effectively tackling this acute vaccine supply shortage in low- and lower-middle-income countries, and fully enabling AVAT and COVAX, requires the urgent cooperation of vaccine manufacturers, vaccine-producing countries, and countries that have already achieved high vaccination rates”.
To ensure that all countries achieve the global goals of at least 10 percent coverage by September, and 40 percent by the end of the year, the top UN Officials called on countries that have contracted high volumes of vaccines to “swap near-term delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT”.
They also advised vaccine manufacturers to “immediately prioritize and fulfill” their contracts to COVAX and AVAT, and to provide regular, clear supply forecasts.
Moreover, the UN agency chiefs urged G7 industrialized nations and all dose-sharing countries to “fulfill their pledges urgently” with enhanced pipeline visibility, product shelf life, and support for ancillary supplies – as barely 10 percent of the nearly 900 million committed doses have yet to be shipped.
“We call on all countries to eliminate export restrictions and any other trade barriers on COVID-19 vaccines and the inputs involved in their production”, the statement continued.
World’s health ‘at stake’
In parallel, the UN agencies are intensifying their work with COVAX and AVAT to tackle persistent vaccine delivery, manufacturing, and trade issues, notably in Africa.
They are mobilizing grants and concessional financing to support this work.
“We will also explore financing mechanisms to cover future vaccine needs as requested by AVAT…[and] advocate for better supply forecasts and investments to increase country preparedness and absorptive capacity”, they assured.
The UN agency heads upheld that they would also continue to enhance data, identify gaps and improve transparency in the supply and use of all COVID-19 tools.
“The time for action is now. The course of the pandemic – and the health of the world – are at stake”, the statement concluded.
African Tourism Board
African Tourism Chairman Cuthbert Ncube said:
“African Tourism will not function with everyone in our source and receiver markets having access to vaccines. Africa is at a terrible disadvantage. All affected sectors, specifically tourism must be on the same table when such vaccine distribution plans are discussed.”
World Tourism Network
Juergen Steinmetz, chairman of the World Tourism Network added:
It’s disturbing to not see UNWTO to not be part of this dialogue. Our sector needs urgent representation on all levels. The vaccine is the new basis of any tourism to function. WTN stands ready to fill this void and speak out for those that don’t or can’t.”