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We need global jab plan: Guterres joins criticism of G7 pledge

Published : Monday, 14 June, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 606

LONDON, June 13: A Group of Seven plan to donate 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries lacks ambition, is far too slow and shows Western leaders are not yet on top of tackling the worst public health crisis in a century, campaigners said on Friday.
While the head of the United Nations welcomed the move, even he said more was needed. Antonio Guterres warned that if people in developing countries were not inoculated quickly, the virus could mutate further and become resistant to the new vaccines.
"We need more than that," he said of the G7 plan. "We need a global vaccination plan. We need to act with a logic, with a sense of urgency, and with the priorities of a war economy, and we are still far from getting that."
US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had used the G7 summit in England to announce the donation of 500 million and 100 million vaccines respectively for the world's poorest nations. Canada is expected to commit to sharing up to 100 million doses and other pledges may follow after Johnson urged G7 leaders to help inoculate the world's nearly 8 billion people against the coronavirus by the end of next year.
The pledge does not represent entirely new resources, and the donation is far short of the 5 billion to 6 billion shots needed by poorer nations. Moreover, the plan does not address distribution gaps that could make it difficult to deliver doses.
But experts said it is still a much-needed boost to COVAX, which has so far only distributed 83 million shots worldwide. COVAX has struggled to secure deliveries as wealthy nations reserve enough shots to vaccinate their populations several times over.
The United Kingdom's 100 million dose pledge is "entirely new" according to a spokesperson. But the European Union's 100 million dose commitment was promised during a summit in May, and the U.S. commitment partially replaces earlier promises to fund COVAX directly.
The United States has already donated $2 billion to COVAX, according to a White House official. In February, the Biden administration pledged $2 billion more. But that second $2 billion will now fund the purchase of the Pfizer doses, along with $1.5 billion in additional funds, according to the official.
Even if the shots are acquired and shipped, they risk overwhelming developing countries' limited distribution infrastructure, especially if many are delivered together late this year. The World Bank extended a $12 billion line of credit for developing countries to build out vaccine distribution infrastructure, but governments have drawn down only about $3 billion.
Others argue that wealthy countries should find a way to ship doses more quickly, especially as some near expiry in countries with high vaccination rates, including those made by Johnson & Johnson Inc (JNJ.N). read more
"When you just see the graph of the increase of vaccination coverage in wealthy countries and the accelerated pace at which that has been happening, and then when you look at the pace in developing countries, it's just so stark," said Kate Elder, senior vaccines policy adviser at Médecins Sans Frontires. "Doses are needed now."    -REUTERS

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