JOHANNESBURG

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told an international health meeting Thursday that clinical testing for COVID-19 vaccines needs to include African populations to ensure they are appropriate for Africans.

“It is essential that African countries benefit from the vaccines being developed,” Ramaphosa said at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first high-level meeting of the Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

Ramaphosa co-chaired the meeting alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Ema Solberg.

The meeting formally launched the international collaboration among a diverse representation of global leaders and partners to accelerate the development, production and equitable deployment of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for COVID-19.

Ramaphosa said the world cannot achieve universal health coverage when a COVID-19 vaccine is available only to countries that are well-resourced in research, manufacturing, distribution, and service.

“As long as someone in the world has the new coronavirus, however remote they may be, we are all at risk from the resurgence of COVID-19,” he said.

Ramaphosa, who is also chairperson of the African Union, said the world needs to move swiftly to ensure everyone has access to a vaccine at the same time it is produced.

The South African leader said countries must support current global initiatives to fund COVID-19 vaccines.

“We should use all available infrastructure to conduct research to find safe and effective vaccines. The efforts by the WHO to enable collaboration among scientists to conduct clinical trials is very welcome,” he said.

Ramaphosa also said as a global community, countries must encourage people to participate in safe clinical trials for different vaccines.

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