Vaccines

Macron confirms donation of Covid vaccines to Africa in tweet to US pop star

A Malian soldier guards the tarmac as doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine arrive as part of the Covax programme at the airport in Bamako, Mali, 5 March 2021.
A Malian soldier guards the tarmac as doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine arrive as part of the Covax programme at the airport in Bamako, Mali, 5 March 2021. AFP - ANNIE RISEMBERG

President Emmanuel Macron has confirmed France's commitment to the global equitable vaccine initiative Covax, in a social media exchange with pop singer Selena Gomez. Macron last week pledged to send half a million Covid-19 doses to African countries by mid-June, becoming the first nation to donate to the programme from its domestic supply.

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On Friday, Macron announced that France would give at least 500,000 doses of various Covid-19 vaccines to Africa via Covax, short for Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, an alliance working to deliver vaccines from high-income countries to the rest of the world.

“Our goal, with these donations, is to allow all countries, especially in Africa, to vaccinate the populations who need it most urgently, beginning with healthcare professionals,” Macron said in a video posted at the weekend.

The Gavi vaccine alliance, which works on procurement and delivery for Covax, said France aimed to send 105,600 doses by the end of April and ramp up its commitment to at least 5 percent of its domestic supply this year.

Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and Spain are among other countries to have pledged to donate from their domestic supplies.

Despite the contributions, the head of the World Health Organization warned last week that vaccines remained out of reach in the poorest countries.

“Nearly 900 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 81 percent have gone to high- or upper middle-income countries, while low-income countries have received just 0.3 percent,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday, on the first anniversary of the creation of Covax.

Selena Gomez implores Macron

On Saturday, Macron was solicited on Twitter by US pop singer Selena Gomez, who on 8 May will host Vax Live, a concert featuring Jennifer Lopez and the Foo Fighters, which aims to raise funds worldwide vaccinations.

“Please join me and send a message to France’s Emmanuel Macron and other G7 leaders asking them to pledge dollars or doses to help everyone around the world fight the Covid-19 pandemic,” Gomez said. 

Macron responded: “Thank you for carrying this crucial message to all leaders. France has already started sending out its first doses of vaccine to Africa through Covax, and it’s just the beginning."

Gomez thanked Macron and expressed hope that the United States' President Joe Biden would follow suit.

Macron has previously called on wealthy nations to transfer up to 5 percent of their vaccines to Africa, but has stopped short of ceding to calls from NGO, unions and public figures to lift patents on vaccines.

“Let us together challenge vaccine nationalism and ensure that protecting intellectual property rights does not come at the expense of human lives,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week.

“This is not the topic for today. What’s important is technology transfer, optimising production capacities,” Macron said Friday.

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