UN urges jabs equity amid variant fears

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·2-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The World Health Organisation has launched a plan that aims to inoculate 70 per cent of the world by mid-2022 amid fears a new jab-resistant coronavirus variant could emerge "very soon".

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also appealed for $US8 billion ($A11 billion) to help equitably vaccinate 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of the year.

He urged G20 countries to deliver on their "desire to get the world vaccinated" at a summit in Rome later this month.

"Not to have equitable distribution of vaccines is not only a question of being immoral, it is also a question of being stupid," he said at a joint news conference with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

So far, more than 6.3 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered globally.

But more than half of the world has yet to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data, and less than 5 per cent of people on the African continent have been fully vaccinated.

"If we let the virus spread like wildfire in the global south, we know that variants will emerge and we know that there is a risk that one day - and that day can be very soon - there will be another variant that will be able to resist vaccines," Guterres said.

"And all the vaccination effort made in developed countries will fall apart and these people will not be protected."

The WHO plan calls for countries with high vaccine coverage to allow expected deliveries of additional doses to first go to the COVAX global sharing program and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) for distribution to where they are more urgently needed.

It also wants the richer countries to fulfil and accelerate vaccine dose-sharing and donation commitments to COVAX, and make new pledges.

And it calls on drug makers to prioritise and urgently fulfill COVAX and AVAT vaccine contracts, be transparent about monthly production data and give clear monthly schedules for supplies to COVAX, AVAT and low and low-middle income countries.

"The whole UN system has shown leadership but we have no power," Guterres said.

"The power is in the countries that produce vaccines or might produce them, and in the companies."

Tedros also questioned why countries had been unable to agree on a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies at the World Trade Organisation.

"If we cannot use it now during this unprecedented situation, when do we use the TRIPS waiver?" Tedros said.

"Why do we even, in the first place, have these IP waivers... if we're not going to use it in such conditions?"

"Manufacturers and governments should really ask themselves this question," he said.

Negotiations on a such a move - proposed by South Africa and India a year ago - are deadlocked and directionless, sources said on Monday after a meeting on the topic.

with PA

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting