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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

US praised for prioritising health instead of security in relations with Africa

The delivery was the largest bilateral vaccine donation to date and enough to vaccinate more than 2.5 million people.

US President Joe Biden has begun to move on his promise to assist Africa overcome diseases and this weekend’s consignment of 5.7 million doses of Pfizer vaccine marks his emphasis on prioritising Africa.

The US had been praised for prioritising health instead of security matters in its relations with Africa.

Biden fulfilled the promise he made to President Cyril Ramaphosa by announcing that the US was donating 5.7 million Covid vaccine doses to SA. The consignment would arrive on a plane this weekend through Covax.

At the beginning his administration, Biden pledged to donate 500 million vaccine doses globally, including sharing them with Africa through Covax.

The donated vaccines would boost South Africa’s own vaccine delivery system and came at the opportune moment when the country had increased its vaccination rate, focusing currently on young people.

“These are the same vaccines we are using for US citizens as approved by the World Health Organisation, the US Food and Drug Administration and the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority,” said the US Mission in South Africa this week.

“And they’re donated from the American people in keeping with how we have long been supporting South Africa’s public health.”

The delivery was the largest bilateral vaccine donation to date and enough to vaccinate more than 2.5 million people.

“We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic,” the embassy said.

The US would also provide 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses through Gavi for distribution by Covax to 92 low- and lower middle-income countries and economies, and the African Union, to supercharge the global fight against the pandemic.

Political analyst Daniel Silke expressed hope that Biden would be quicker to deploy the US ambassador to South Africa unlike Donald Trump, who did so towards the end of his single term.

Reacting to Biden’s election, Silke said: “Even if domestic affairs occupied his mind, the rapid appointment of the ambassador will signify a convivial approach by Biden towards South Africa.”

As if he heard this, Biden selected Dana L Banks, a career diplomat with immense African experience, as his special assistant and senior director for Africa at the National Security Council in January.

Banks’ attachment to Africa would help Biden to consider Africa as a priority.

Some said it wouldn’t be a surprise if Banks was considered for an ambassadorial posting in South Africa in future.

– ericn@citizen.co.za

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