Health Minister Andrew Little made an unfortunate slip of the tongue talking to Mike Hosking last week on Newstalk ZB.
Referring to the number of vaccines New Zealand had secured, Little said: "We've got vaccinations for Africa now."
It's a common-enough saying (though not exactly PC), so you could see how Little might use it without thinking. But in the context of what's happening with the world's efforts to vaccinate against Covid, it was a real clanger.
There must have been a twinge of regret the moment he said it. Because most African countries, as Little would know, are having a very hard time getting Covid vaccines. Because wealthier countries like New Zealand are getting them first.
According to recent figures from the World Health Organisation, only 3 per cent of the African population was fully vaccinated.
Just 2 per cent of the 6 billion jabs given globally have gone in the arms of people across the African continent.
At best, it's hoped that Africa may secure enough vaccine doses to vaccinate 20 per cent of the population before the year's end. But we all know what that low number means for the spread of Delta and the likelihood of a rising number of deaths and people debilitated by long Covid.
So far, there have been 200,000 Covid-related deaths recorded in Africa.
If African countries don't achieve the high vaccination rates that New Zealand and other countries are aiming for, that figure will quickly rise.
The problem is, without a globally co-ordinated approach to vaccination, it's simply a bidding war for vaccine doses. No country with the funds available is going to willingly put itself to the back of the queue.
Imagine if Jacinda Ardern's Labour government hadn't been prepared to pay top dollar for the Pfizer vaccine?
Imagine if the vaccine rollout were still less than 50 per cent this time next year? Labour would surely be kicked out of government by outraged New Zealanders.
While taking satisfaction at our vaccination surge, we should spare a thought for people in less-wealthy countries who are far from the light at the end of the Covid tunnel.
And due to the danger of new variants, we are not safe from Covid until the whole world is vaccinated.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation's regional director for Africa, puts it bluntly: "The staggering inequality and severe lag in shipments of vaccines threatens to turn areas in Africa with low vaccination rates into breeding grounds for vaccine-resistant variants."
"This could," she says, "end up sending the whole world back to square one."
For this reason, and to save lives now, we should support the international People's Vaccine campaign initiated by Oxfam and other global human rights organisations (go to www.peoplesvaccine.org).
The campaign's goal is to have pharmaceutical companies required to share their vaccine "recipes" with the world. As well as the knowledge and technologies required to manufacture the vaccines.
That would mean many more countries, including potentially New Zealand, could manufacture vaccines. Therefore boosting global supply and bringing prices down.
It's not right that some big pharmaceutical companies are making super-profits from a pandemic. Pfizer is reportedly the worst, with estimates it's returning an 80 per cent profit on each dose of vaccine it sells.
As we rush to our vaccination target, we should acknowledge our privileged vaccine status and urge the Government to support the concept of a People's Vaccine in international forums.
It's the humanly decent thing to do, to make vaccine knowledge freely available to all. The outcome of this pandemic will depend on it.
Absolutely, there needs to be "vaccines for Africa".
• Northern Advocate columnist Vaughan Gunson writes about life and politics.