Africa Standing Up For Global Health Equity

The world is grasping towards its new-normal platitude at a very fast pace. We are evidencing how much effort is being invested to carefully define new ways of living that will offer a subtle life operation without erupting another pandemic.

With most pre-Covid norms being malleable to fit in the new normal, there are still efforts in structuring how people can safely travel across the world. One of these is the innovative approach taken by the European Union (EU) with their recent establishment of the “Green Pass” – EU Digital Covid Certificate. A new structure pioneered by the EU to ensure safe travel across the 27 European Union member states as well as Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein – and in conversations with the United Kingdom and United States (Consilium). The pass contains details of an individual’s vaccination status, negative test results or recovery status from COVID-19 (Consilium). With its strong verification process, the pass has been made available to the public as of July 1st 2021 and free of cost (Consilium).

In regards to the vaccination status – which serves as a major criterion in issuing the certificate -, it goes further into exploring what type of vaccine an individual received for them to get the Green Pass. This policy makes the program serve as a barrow of inequity for individuals who received vaccines out of the acceptable spectrum, established and curated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).  

One of the vaccines that doesn’t fall in the spectrum is the Covishield Vaccine issued by the Serum Institute of India (SII). It takes on a similar identity to the AstraZeneca vaccine (ChAdOx1_nCoV-19) produced and authorized in Europe (Vaxzervria). Despite the independent efforts of Austria, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain to recognize the vaccine, the EMA has yet released a statement in regards to changing its position on including the Covishield vaccine in its acceptable spectrum ( HealthCare IT).  

What’s the deal with Covishield not being accepted by the European Medicines Agency?

In regards to the Africa context, Covishield Vaccine has been widely distributed in most Africa Union (AU) Member State’s vaccination programs through the EU-supported COVAX program (Africa CDC). Considering the EMA policy for vaccine selection/ acceptance is that it must have gone through the EU-wide market authorization, it is certain that there are no possibilities of any Covishield vaccine holder – from AU member states – to be granted the Green pass – as Serum Institute of India (SII)’s mission is to supply the vaccine to India and low-income countries only.  

In light of this, following last June 28th 2021, the African Union Commission, together with the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, released a statement towards the Green Pass. The statement is noted to acknowledge how the green pass is the “potential to significantly facilitate free safe movement across all EU Member States and certain associated countries” (Africa CDC) and “is a significant step forward” (Africa CDC) in ensuring safe travel. The statement is also noted to strongly urge the EU to consider revisiting the policy set to run the Digital Certificate program as it perpetuates “inequalities in access to ‘Green Passes’ ”  (Africa CDC), and they would most “persist indefinitely” (Africa CDC).

With regards to the theme for our Gathering – Global Health Equity: Building Solutions for Crises We Cannot Ignore – and as a member of this network, it’s essential to speak in-depth about such underlying global health equity issues in the context of the African Continent. 

On August 13th 2021, we will connect together leaders in the health sector from various organizations to spur up tough-constructive conversations upon issues like vaccine equity

By Joseph Usungu, AL for Health network member

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