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COVID-19: UN Chief Calls For G20 Vaccine Task Force, In ‘War’ Against The Virus


UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday
urged the world’s richest economies to take a central role
in ending the COVID-19 pandemic by stepping up support for
vaccines for all people,
everywhere.

Stressing that no one is safe
until everyone is safe, the UN chief told
the G20 Global Health Summit in Rome “it is time for
decisive action.”

Mr Guterres repeated his call for
the G20 to establish a Task Force “able to deal with the
pharmaceutical companies and other key stakeholders”,
which would address equitable vaccine distribution through
the COVAX
global initiative.

‘We are at war’

The
goal would be to double manufacturing capacity using all
options such as voluntary licenses, technology transfers,
patent pooling and “flexibility” on intellectual
property.

“Let’s be clear, we are at war with the
virus,” the Secretary-General said. “And if you are at
war with the virus, we need to deal with our weapons with
rules of a war economy, and we are not yet there. And this
is true for vaccines, and it is true for other components in
the fight against the virus.”

Pledging the UN’s
full support for the effort, the Secretary-General said the
G20 Task Force “should be co-convened at the highest
levels by the major powers who hold most of the global
supply and production capacity.”

Support COVAX
initiative

Membership would comprise countries that
can produce vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO), financial
institutions, and the multi-sector partners behind the ACT
Accelerator, the global collaboration to develop and
equitably distribute COVID-19 tests,
treatments, and vaccines.

COVAX, its vaccine arm,
should have delivered 180 million doses worldwide by now,
but Mr Guterres said just 65 million have been distributed
due to “vaccine nationalism”, limited production
capacity and lack of financing.

He called for G20
countries to “lead by example” by contributing their
full share of funding.

The only way out

The
Secretary-General said vaccinating quickly and thoroughly,
combined with continued public healthmeasures, are the
only way to end the global pandemic and prevent more
dangerous COVID-19 variants from emerging.

However,
more than 80 per cent of vaccines have gone to rich nations,
with poorer countries receiving a paltry 0.3 per
cent.

“Grossly unequal access to vaccines, tests,
medicines and supplies, including oxygen, have left poorer
countries at the mercy of the virus,” he
said.

“Recent surges of COVID-19 in India, South
America and other regions have left people literally gasping
for breath before our eyes.”

The Secretary-General
emphasized that although global action on vaccines can end
this pandemic, it will not help prevent the
next.

“The bedrock of the recovery from COVID-19,
and of preventing and addressing future health crises, is
universal health coverage, and robust primary health care
systems,” he said.

‘The world cannot wait any
longer’

Addressing the summit, the head of UN
health agency, WHO, warned that people will continue to die
if global disparity in vaccines persists.

“Yes, the
rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines is a triumph of
science. But their inequitable distribution is a failure for
humanity”, said
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director
General.

“We can only end the pandemic if everyone
has the tools to stop it.”

Tedros called on G20
countries to fully fund the ACT-Accelerator,
share more doses through COVAX, and waive intellectual
property for vaccines, particularly for Africa.

“The
G20 has all the means to vaccinate the world, and the world
cannot wait any longer,” he said.

Death toll likely
higher

There have been more than 165 million recorded
cases of COVID-19 worldwide, but WHO said on Friday that the
true number of deaths could be two to three times higher
than the officially reported figures.

Although 3.4
million deaths were reported in the first year of the
pandemic, its latest report found these “are likely a
significant undercount” when based on deaths that were
either directly or indirectly attributable to the
disease.

Last year, more than 1.8 million deaths were
reported to the UN agency but WHO’s State of the World’s
Health report indicates there were “at least three
million”.

The 1.2 million more deaths include people
who died from coronavirus
infection, and others who were unable to access health care
because resources were diverted to deal with the pandemic.
It is likely that the finding will be repeated this year due
to data gaps in
reporting.

© Scoop Media

 



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