Access to Covid-19 Vaccines in LICs in Africa: An Examination of the Human Rights Concerns and the Obligations of International Assistance and Cooperation
Publication Date : 06/04/2023
Africa has historically had low access to medicines, due to numerous reasons, and has lagged behind in medical treatments and advancements, particularly during global pandemics. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some high-income countries (HICs) enacted laws and undertook other measures that resulted in restricted access to COVID-19 vaccines and related commodities in low-income countries (LICs). It was reported, for example, that the United Kingdom enacted laws to prevent the exportation of essential medicines, the European Union curbed exports of hospital supplies, and the USA restricted PPE [personal protective equipment] exports. Some HICs entered into advance purchase agreements with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to secure doses well beyond their population’s needs (hoarding). It was also reported that LICs later received shipments of nearly expired COVID-19 vaccines, which proved impossible to administer before they expired. These detrimental actions of some HICs led to disastrous effects (as evident by the mortality rate from the COVID-19 pandemic), despite the right to health being guaranteed and the obligations of international assistance and cooperation (IAC) existing under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). In light of the foregoing, this paper discusses inequalities in access to medicines (COVID-19 vaccines) in African LICs, the human rights concerns, states’ obligations of IAC under the ICESCR, lessons learned from COVID-19 pandemic inequities, and future pandemic preparedness to ensure universal access to medicines.
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