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African leaders tell UN they need more vaccines

In this photo taken from video, South Africa's President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa remotely addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in a pre-recorded message today at UN headquarters. (UN Web TV via AP)

NEW YORK — The inequity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution is coming into sharper focus as many of the African countries whose populations have little to no access to the life-saving shots stepped to the podium to speak at the U.N.’s annual meeting of world leaders.

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa pointed to vaccines as “the greatest defense that humanity has against the ravages of this pandemic.”

Ramaphosa, speaking by video link, urged U.N. member states to support a proposal to temporarily waive certain intellectual property rights established by the World Trade Organization to allow more countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

“It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 percent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1 percent has gone to low-income countries,” he says.

Angola president João Lourenço says: “These disparities allow for third doses to be given, in some cases. While in other cases, as in Africa, the vast majority of the population has not even received the first dose.”

The U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Israel are among the countries administering boosters or have announced plans to do so. Namibia president Hage Geingob called it “vaccine apartheid.”

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