COVID-19 vaccines: The challenges of protecting Africa's fragile regions

Ensuring that the most fragile and conflict-affected countries in Africa will have access to COVID-19 vaccines will be an arduous task.

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    This briefing note looks at the challenges ahead for large-scale vaccination, as part of our series of looking at the longer-term effects of COVID-19 on conflict and fragility in Africa. We ask some of the hard questions about the potential repercussions for highly fragile situations in Africa and what it might mean for the European Union’s role in the global response to the pandemic.

    As countries continue to deal with the socio-economic effects of the pandemic, they are now turning their attention to vaccination. Yet in a context of geopolitical competition surrounding vaccine procurement, Africa has been unable to secure sufficient doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The challenges are even greater for highly fragile and conflict-affected countries, where poor health infrastructure, limited access, security challenges and misinformation will make vaccination an arduous task. There is a real risk that the most vulnerable communities in Africa will be left behind. Without sufficient access to vaccines, the prolonged social, economic, health and political impacts of the pandemic are likely to exacerbate existing problems for the most fragile and conflict-affected regions.

    The EU’s performance as a global health actor during this pandemic has been mixed. It has attempted to act as one bloc under ‘Team Europe’, supported global health initiatives such as COVAX, and financed research and innovation initiatives. However, it has also been criticised for over-ordering vaccines and for the relatively small amount of funding geared towards COVID-19 relief.

    Taking all this into account, we put forth some recommendations on how the EU can support equitable access to vaccines in fragile and conflict-affected regions in Africa as part of its external action.

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