Public health groups are pressuring countries to direct a portion of their Covid-19 vaccine supplies to a “humanitarian buffer” that would be used to inoculate people living in rebel-held territories, which are located in asylum seeker camps and others who are unlikely to receive vaccinations from their governments.
The reserve is intended for use in emergencies and as a safety net to ensure that the global effort to end the Covid-19 pandemic is not sabotaged by governments using vaccines as a bargaining chip with restless populations, flatly denying it to some marginalized groups.
“In Syria there are a lot of internally displaced people who could end up in areas not controlled by the government, or could be considered anti-government or pro-revolution,” said Alain Alsalhani, a vaccine pharmacist who works with Doctors. Sans Frontières.
“There are also ethnic minorities or other people who might be neglected, so usually in Chhattisgarh state in India, there are entire villages that the government considers pro-Maoist and they don’t have access to any kind of medical care. “.
It is understood that the French government is taking the initiative to collect contributions to the mattress, and President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech on friday expects France and its European partners to donate a portion of their doses to health workers and others “most in need, in the most fragile countries.”
Sources involved in the negotiations said French officials have indicated that giving between 1% and 5% of their doses continuously to the humanitarian arsenal would be politically realistic, although no figures have been finalized.
The Guardian understands that the UK is so far resisting requests to put a percentage of its first doses into the fund, although it has contributed £ 500 million to the Covax global vaccine exchange scheme and increased its funding from the World Health Organization (WHO) after the Donald Trump administration announced it was withdrawing from the group.
“Our ambition is to defeat this virus by working together globally to develop, mass-produce and distribute a vaccine,” said a British government spokesman. “We ensure that people in the UK have access to a coronavirus vaccine once strong standards for safety and efficacy are met, but we also actively support equitable distribution in developing countries.”
The WHO announced the intention to create the reserve, but has not yet provided details on the size of the reserve and how it would work.
As more vaccines approach regulatory approval, the focus is on vaccinating enough of the world’s population to end the acute stage of the pandemic.
Katherine O’Brien, director of the WHO immunization department, said this week that the discovery of an effective vaccine was like building a base camp on Mount Everest. “The climb to the top is really about delivering the vaccines,” he said.
Rich countries have reserved several times more doses of vaccines than their populations will need, although some of the formulations they have obtained may prove ineffective. The buying frenzy has sparked fears that poorer countries will not receive adequate vaccine supplies until at least 2024.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier highlighted the danger in a speech on Wednesday, saying the world needed to recognize that “it is in our own enlightened interest to vaccinate some people in all countries first, and not all in just a few countries first ”.
The Covid-19 vaccine distribution has been described as one of the largest mass enterprises in history, requiring large reserves of not only inoculations, but also equipment such as vials, dry ice, and refrigerators. Unicef announced last month that it was beginning to accumulate a stockpile of around 520 million syringes in anticipation of launch.
Experts have warned that “vaccine nationalism,” in which countries prioritize inoculating their own populations before others, will unnecessarily prolong the pandemic for years.
In a call with reporters last week, Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, a global vaccine fund, cited research from Northwestern University showing that if the first 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines were distributed proportionally By national population, deaths worldwide would be reduced by 61%.
If the doses were monopolized by the 50 richest countries in the world, the global figure would be reduced by 33%, according to the study. “[That is] the harsh truth about this pandemic, until everyone is safe, no one will be safe, ”Berkley said.
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