Monday, October 25

Coronavirus vaccines: UN chief Antonio Guterres urges a global plan to reverse unfair access

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres harshly criticized the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, saying 10 countries have administered 75 percent of all vaccines and demanding a global effort to vaccinate. to all the people in every nation as soon as possible.

The UN chief told a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council that 130 countries have not received a single dose of vaccine, declaring that “at this critical moment, the equity of the vaccine is the greatest moral test before the world community “.

Guterres called for an urgent World Vaccination Plan to bring together those with the power to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines: scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort.

And he called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency working group to establish a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing. He said the task force should have the ability “to mobilize pharmaceutical companies and key players in industry and logistics.”

Guterres said Friday’s meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialized countries (the United States, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Italy) “may create the momentum to mobilize the necessary financial resources.”

Thirteen ministers addressed the virtual council meeting hosted by Britain to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines, including in conflict areas.

The coronavirus has infected more than 109 million people and killed at least 2.4 million of them. As manufacturers struggle to increase vaccine production, many countries complain of being left out and even rich nations face shortages and internal complaints.

The World Health Organization’s COVAX program, an ambitious project to purchase and distribute coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poorest people, no longer achieved its own goal of starting coronavirus vaccines in poor countries at the same time. that vaccines were implemented in rich countries. WHO says COVAX needs $ 5 billion in 2021.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the council that Biden’s management “will work with our partners around the world to expand manufacturing and distribution capacity and to increase access, including to underserved populations.”

President Joe Biden has rejoined the WHO and Blinken announced that by the end of February the United States will pay more than $ 200 million in current and previously assessed obligations to the UN agency, which Washington will seek to reform.

The top US diplomat said the US also plans to provide “significant financial support” to COVAX through the GAVI vaccine alliance, and will work to strengthen other multilateral initiatives involved in the global response to COVID-19. He did not give details.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi criticized the growing “immunity gap” and called on the world to “unite in rejecting” vaccine nationalism “, promoting the fair and equitable distribution of vaccines and, in particular, making them accessible and affordable for developing countries including those in conflict. “

At the request of the WHO, he said, China will contribute 10 million doses of vaccines to COVAX “on a preliminary basis.”

China has donated vaccines to 53 developing countries, including Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan, and Palestine, which is a UN observer state. It has also exported vaccines to 22 countries, he said, adding that Beijing has launched research and development cooperation on COVID-19 with more than 10 countries.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar also called for an end to “vaccine nationalism” and the encouragement of internationalism. “The hoarding of superfluous doses will frustrate our efforts to achieve collective health security,” he warned.

Jaishankar said India has been at the forefront of the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, initially providing medicines, ventilators and personal protective equipment and now directly shipping Indian-made vaccines to 25 nations around the world, with 49 countries. Additional vaccines from Europe and Latin America to Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands will receive vaccines “in the coming days.”

Two vaccines, including one developed in India, received emergency authorization, the minister said, and as many as 30 candidate vaccines are in various stages of development.

Jaishankar announced “a gift of 200,000 doses” of vaccine for approximately 90,000 UN peacekeepers serving a dozen hotspots around the world.

The Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, whose country is currently president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, asked to accelerate COVAX and stop the “undue hoarding” and “monopolization of vaccines.”

He urged that countries with limited resources be given priority, saying that “it has been noted that these countries will not have widespread access until mid-2023 if current trends persist.”

“What we are seeing is a huge gap,” Ebrard said. “In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a huge divide that affects so many people in such a short time. That’s why it’s important to reverse this. “

He urged the international community not to establish mechanisms that impede the rapid delivery of vaccines, but to strengthen supply chains “that will promote and guarantee universal access.”

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, whose country holds the presidency of the Security Council this month and chaired the virtual meeting, urged the most powerful UN body to adopt a resolution calling for a local ceasefire in the conflict zones to allow delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. .

“In the past, the ceasefire has been used to vaccinate the most vulnerable communities,” he said. “There is no reason why we cannot … We have seen him in the past deliver polio vaccines to children in Afghanistan, just to take an example.”

Britain says more than 160 million people are at risk of being excluded from coronavirus vaccines because they live in countries mired in conflict and instability, including Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.

British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward said: “Humanitarian organizations and UN agencies need the full backing of the council in order to carry out the work that we ask them to do.”

Britain has drafted a Security Council resolution that Britain hopes will be adopted in the coming weeks, he said.

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