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WHO warns virus moves quicker than jabs

China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-16 10:17
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World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks as he attends the World Health Assembly (WHA) amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

GENEVA-The World Health Organization warned on Monday that COVID-19 was moving faster than the vaccines, and said the G7's vow to share a billion doses with poorer nations was simply not enough.

Global health leaders warned the pledge was too little, too late, with more than 11 billion shots needed to stop the pandemic.

Faced with outrage over disparities in jab access, the Group of Seven nations pledged during a weekend summit in Britain to take their total dose donations to more than 1 billion, up from 130 million promised in February.

"I welcome the announcement that G7 countries will donate 870 million (new) vaccine doses, primarily through COVAX," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news conference.

"This is a big help, but we need more, and we need them faster. Right now, the virus is moving faster than the global distribution of vaccines. More than 10,000 people are dying every day. These communities need vaccines, and they need them now, not next year."

In terms of doses administered, the imbalance between the G7 and low-income countries, as defined by the World Bank, is 73 to one.

Many of the donated G7 doses will be filtered through COVAX, a global body charged with ensuring equitable vaccine distribution.

Run by the WHO, the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the program has to date shipped more than 87 million vaccine doses to 131 countries. That is far fewer than anticipated.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders questioned how sincere the G7 was in pursuing vaccine equity.

"We need to see more clarity around the actual number of doses donated, and exactly how long it's going to take to translate their pledges into real impact and access," the medical charity's Hu Yuanqiong said.

Battle plan

The G7 anti-pandemic battle plan includes commitments to avert future pandemics, slashing the time taken to develop and license vaccines to under 100 days, reinforcing global surveillance and strengthening the WHO. But observers voiced doubts at the group's willingness to follow through on the last point.

"I will believe (that) point when the contributions to WHO are increased," tweeted Ilona Kickbusch, founding director and chair of the Global Health Centre in Geneva.

Others stressed the need to quickly resolve the issue of COVID vaccine patent protections, to boost production. Negotiations toward a possible suspension of intellectual property protections for vaccines, as well as other medical tools needed to battle the pandemic, have just begun at the World Trade Organization after months of contentious debate.

The WHO on Monday also urged countries to close a funding gap of $16 billion for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator project, which aims to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines left unanswered by participants in the G7 summit.

"We have to close that financing gap. The world has the resources to rapidly close a 16-to-17 billion (dollar) gap," said Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the WHO director-general.

Agencies - Xinhua

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