Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth calls for Covid-19 vaccines to be ‘distributed fairly’ amid fears that some parts of the world might be left behind in the dash for coronavirus immunity.
Mr Jugnauth calls upon world leaders to ensure that no countries miss out on the crucial vaccines once they are approved for use and for governments to continue coordination efforts the World Health Organisation.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequalities that exist amongst nations and this is nowhere more evident than in the area of having fair and equal access to safe, effective, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines,” said Mr Jugnauth. “Access is key to changing the course of the pandemic and help those countries experiencing catastrophic economic and fiscal impacts to move toward a resilient recovery.
“We call for global leadership and coordinated response to ensure that any approved vaccine is distributed equitably.”
Around 150 vaccines against Covid-19 are currently in development around the world but three have emerged as the front runners in the race for immunisation: Pfizer/BioNtech,
Oxford University/AstraZeneca and Moderna. Initial trials for all three have shown promising results but there is still a long way to go before they are given the green light.
Even with an accelerated timetable the first doses will not be available until the end of the year at the earliest and then only to a limited amount of people in countries who have placed orders for the vaccines. Widespread vaccination is unlikely to happen until the second half of 2021 and then the question is how will less wealthy nations fare in the race for the vaccine with experts predicting lower and middle-income countries might not get mass immunisation until 2022.
The island nation of Mauritius has already pre-ordered vaccines for 20 per cent of the population which will go to the country’s front-line staff and those most vulnerable to the virus. Mauritius has a population of around 1.3 million people, many living in densely populated areas, but due to an early lockdown and strict quarantine measures managed to reduce the impact of Covid-19 to just 478 cases and 10 deaths.
Speaking at the closing day of the fifth edition of Qatar Foundation’s WISH 2020 summit, Jugnauth told attendees how Mauritius contained the virus thanks to a multi-layered response including a strict regime of PCR testing, 14-day quarantine, isolation and treatment as part of the government’s containment strategy.
Even those it has a relatively ageing population with a high percentage of diabetes and cardiovascular morbidity, Mauritius scored a perfect 100 on the Oxford University Stringency Index that tracks government policy and action with regard to COVID-19.
“Considering our circumstances, our response has been heralded as one of the most efficient in the world as we managed to contain, in a matter of six weeks, the virus which reached our shores on the 18th of March,” said Mr Jugnauth.
However, he added that the unprecedented scope and magnitude of pandemic continued to pose challenges for Mauritius, particularly the “drying up of international visitor numbers, in terms of both business and tourism.”
To mitigate the impact, Jugnauth said his government is providing economic, income and job support to affected sectors of the economy.
“As a centrepiece of our own recovery policy, my Government is committed to injecting significant national resources which will total almost 30 per cent of the country’s GDP, to support and build the economic recovery of Mauritius,” he said.
One positive impact of the pandemic was that there was an increased interest from young people in following careers in medicine and public health as well as STEM subjects, he said.
“If one thing positive can come out from 2020 it is that adversity builds commitment, and hope brings resilience,’ he said. ‘This is a war that we, and specially our youth, will not forget and will grow from.”
WISH is Qatar Foundation’s global health initiative.