United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “vaccine nationalism” was moving “at full speed,” leaving poor people around the globe watching preparations for COVID-19 inoculations in several rich nations while wondering if and when they will also get the vaccines.
The UN chief stressed his call for vaccines to be treated as “a global public good,” available to everyone and everywhere, especially in Africa.
He appealed for $4.2 billion in the next two months for the World Health Organization’s Covax program, an ambitious project to buy and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest people.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a recent high-level UN General Assembly meeting on Covid-19 that “the light at the end of the tunnel is growing steadily brighter” to end the pandemic.
But, he added, vaccines “must be shared equally as global public goods, not as private commodities that widen inequalities and become yet another reason some people are left behind.”
Tedros said WHO’s cash-strapped ACT-Accelerator program to quickly develop and distribute vaccines fairly, which includes the Covax project, “is in danger of becoming no more than a noble gesture” without major new funding.
Covax requires an additional $23.9 billion for 2021. He stressed that the $28 billion total is less than one-half of 1 percent of the $11 trillion in stimulus packages announced by the world’s richest countries.
The United Kingdom and Russia already started vaccinating their residents.
In the US, the Pfizer vaccine is expected to be approved for emergency use in the coming days and the Moderna vaccine in the coming weeks. Canada already announced approval of the Pfizer vaccine. Guterres said Africa’s 54 nations have registered more than 2.2 million cases of infections and over 53,000 deaths.
“There is real hope that vaccines — in combination with other public health measures–will help to overcome the pandemic,” he said.
But to end it, vaccines must be available to all and “most African countries lack the financing to adequately respond to the crisis, due in part to declining demand and prices of their commodity exports,” he added
Guterres said: “It is my hope that we’ll be able to do it before the second quarter, but it is true that what we’re seeing today is an enormous effort by several countries in order to ensure vaccines for their own populations.”
“It’s true we are seeing vaccination nationalism moving at full speed,” the UN chief said. “If Africa is not properly supported, we will not be able to fight the pandemic,” he said.
“There are several vaccines in the pipeline for Covax, and it is perfectly possible to deliver if the financing is guaranteed.” AP