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WORLD | 20-02-2021 05:54

Wealthy nations up Covax funding amid ‘vaccine hoarding’ claims

G7 commits 7.5 billion euros to Covax scheme, just two days after UN warned of global vaccine equities.

The G7 promised Friday to ramp up health funding for poorer nations amid accusations they are hoarding coronavirus vaccines, as France and the United Kingdom vowed to donate vaccines to those without them.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, this year's chair of the G7, vowed to free up any surplus UK vaccines for poorer countries at an unspecified future date, and underlined the need for collective action to recover from the pandemic. Britain has already committed US$766 million to Covax. 

"We've got to make sure the whole world is vaccinated because this is a global pandemic and it's no use one country being far ahead of another, we've got to move together," he said in opening remarks at the online summit, the G7's first since last April.

At the G7, US President Joe Biden brought a pledge of US$4 billion (4.6 billion euros) in US aid to the United Nation's Covax fund to buy vaccines for global distribution. Officials, speaking off the record, told journalists though that the US would not share doses until its domestic needs were met.

Germany said it was giving an extra 1.5 billion euros for the global rollout, and the European Union doubled its own Covax funding to one billion euros.

The total in G7 commitments stands at 7.5 billion euros, the group said in a joint statement following the talks.

"Drawing on our strengths and values as democratic, open economies and societies, we will work together and with others to make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism and to shape a recovery that promotes the health and prosperity of our people and planet," the leaders added.

But ahead of the gathering, French President Emmanuel Macron had demanded richer nations go further by transferring three to five percent of their existing stock to Africa.

"It's an unprecedented acceleration of global inequality and it's politically unsustainable too because it's paving the way for a war of influence over vaccines," he told the Financial Times, as Russia and China step up free or low-cost distribution of their own jabs.

Rich countries have come under fire for hoarding Covid-19 jabs at the expense of poorer countries, despite warnings from health experts that vaccines can only end the pandemic if they are distributed globally.

UN warns of vaccine inequities

On Wednesday, the United Nations led calls for a coordinated global effort to vaccinate against Covid-19, warning that gaping inequities in initial efforts put the whole planet at risk.

Secretary-General António Guterres voiced alarm that just 10 nations have administered 75 percent of doses so far – and 130 countries have had none at all.

"The world urgently needs a global vaccination plan to bring together all those with the required power, scientific expertise and production and financial capacities," Guterres said.

"If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the Global South, it will mutate again and again. New variants could become more transmissible, more deadly and, potentially, threaten the effectiveness of current vaccines and diagnostics," Guterres said.

"This can prolong the pandemic significantly, enabling the virus to come back to plague the Global North."

Henrietta Fore, head of the UN children's agency UNICEF, said: "The only way out of this pandemic for any of us is to ensure vaccinations are available for all of us."

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard also denounced the "injustice" of what he called a "deepening gap" as wealthy countries "monopolise the vaccines."

– TIMES/AFP

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