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UN chief urges global plan to reverse ‘unfair’ vaccine access

Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council that 130 countries had not received a single dose of vaccine.

bc885b66-e470-40fb-8f47-fd6f54678076 Source: PA

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL Antonio Guterres has criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of Covid-19 vaccines globally.

Speaking at a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council, the UN chief said 10 countries had so far administered 75% of all vaccinations and he demanded a global effort to get all people in every nation vaccinated as soon as possible.

He said that 130 countries had not received a single dose of vaccine and declared that “at this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community”.

Guterres called for an urgent Global Vaccination Plan to bring together those with the power to ensure fair vaccine distribution – scientists, vaccine producers and those who could fund the effort.

The secretary-general called on the world’s major economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency task force to create a plan and co-ordinate its implementation and financing.

He said the task force should have the capacity “to mobilise the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors”.

Guterres said Friday’s meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialised nations “can create the momentum to mobilise the necessary financial resources”.

Britain holds the Security Council presidency this month, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged the UN’s most powerful body to adopt a resolution calling for ceasefires in conflict zones to allow the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines.

He said: “Ceasefires have been used to vaccinate the most vulnerable communities in the past. There’s no reason why we can’t… We have seen it in the past to deliver polio vaccines to children in Afghanistan, just to take one example.”

Thirteen ministers were scheduled to address the meeting on improving access to Covid-19 vaccines including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Britain says more than 160 million people are at risk of being excluded from coronavirus vaccinations because they live in countries engulfed in conflict and instability, including Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.

“Global vaccination coverage is essential to beating coronavirus,” Raab said ahead of the meeting.

“That is why the UK is calling for a vaccination ceasefire to allow Covid-19 vaccines to reach people living in conflict zones and for a greater global team effort to deliver equitable access.”

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Britain’s UN ambassador Barbara Woodward said: “Humanitarian organisations and UN agencies need the full backing of the council to be able to carry out the job we are asking them to do.”

Woodward said ceasefires had been used to carry out vaccinations, pointing to a two-day pause in fighting in Afghanistan in 2001 that enabled 35,000 health workers and volunteers to vaccinate 5.7 million children under the age of five against polio.

Britain has drafted a Security Council resolution that Woodward said the UK hoped would be adopted in the coming weeks.

Covid-19 has infected more than 109 million people and killed at least 2.4 million. But many countries have not yet started vaccination programmes and even rich nations are facing shortages of vaccine doses as manufacturers struggle to ramp up production.

The World Health Organisation’s Covax program, an ambitious project to buy and deliver coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poorest people, has already missed its own goal of beginning coronavirus vaccinations in poor countries at the same time as shots are being rolled out in rich countries.

Numerous developing countries have rushed in recent weeks to sign their own private deals to buy vaccines, unwilling to wait for Covax.

Woodward said Britain supported reserving 5% of Covax doses as a “last resort” buffer to ensure that high-risk populations had access to Covid-19 vaccines.

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Press Association

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