60 na­tions join Co­vax ac­cess plan

WHO seeks even dis­tri­bu­tion of com­ing COVID-19 vac­cine

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - - WAR ON COVID -

The aim is for Co­vax to lay its hands on two bil­lion doses of safe and ef­fec­tive vac­cines by the end of 2021

GENEVA, Switzer­land (AFP) — More than 60 wealthy na­tions have joined a WHO-backed pro­gram to fa­cil­i­tate poor coun­tries’ ac­cess to coro­n­avirus vac­cines, but the United States and China are not on the list pub­lished Mon­day.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) has in co­or­di­na­tion with the global vac­cine al­liance group Gavi and the Coali­tion for Epi­demic Pre­pared­ness In­no­va­tions (CEPI) cre­ated a mech­a­nism aimed at en­sur­ing a more eq­ui­table dis­tri­bu­tion of any fu­ture COVID-19 vac­cines.

But the mech­a­nism, known as Co­vax, has strug­gled to raise the funds needed to pro­vide for the 92 low-in­come coun­tries and other economies that quickly signed up.

WHO had en­cour­aged richer na­tions to step up to the plate by the end of last week and when the dead­line fell, 64 were on­board with an­other 38 ex­pected to join in the “com­ing days,” the three or­ga­ni­za­tions said in a joint state­ment.

Among those who have signed up are “the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion... on be­half of 27 EU mem­ber states plus Nor­way and Ice­land,” it said.

The United States, which un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has re­lent­lessly crit­i­cized the WHO’s han­dling of the pan­demic and which is in the process of with­draw­ing from the or­ga­ni­za­tion, is not on the list.

And China, where the novel coro­n­avirus first sur­faced late last year, is also ab­sent.

“The pur­pose of the Co­vax fa­cil­ity is to try to work with every coun­try in the world,” Gavi chief Seth Berkley told a vir­tual brief­ing when asked about China’s ab­sence from the list.

“I can as­sure you that we have had con­ver­sa­tions and will con­tinue to have con­ver­sa­tions with all coun­tries,” he said.

‘Not char­ity’

The aim is for Co­vax to lay its hands on two bil­lion doses of safe and ef­fec­tive vac­cines by the end of 2021.

The WHO has said some $38 bil­lion is needed for its over­all ACT-Ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­gram, which in­cludes Co­vax, but also global col­lab­o­ra­tion to­wards de­vel­op­ing and en­sur­ing eq­ui­table ac­cess to tests and treat­ments for COVID-19, and strength­en­ing health sys­tems.

But so far it has re­ceived just $3.0 bil­lion of that.

WHO chief Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus voiced op­ti­mism that so many coun­tries — rep­re­sent­ing nearly two-thirds of the global pop­u­la­tion — had agreed to par­tic­i­pate in the mech­a­nism.

“COVID-19 is an un­prece­dented global cri­sis that de­mands an un­prece­dented global re­sponse,” he said in the state­ment, warn­ing coun­tries against scram­bling to ac­quire vac­cine stocks for their pop­u­la­tions alone.

“Vac­cine na­tion­al­ism will only per­pet­u­ate the dis­ease and pro­long the global re­cov­ery,” he said.

“This is not char­ity,” he told jour­nal­ists.

“It’s in every coun­try’s best in­ter­est. We sink or we swim to­gether.”

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