Rich nations hoard COVID vaccines but Europe ditches British jabs

Edited by Ed Newman
2021-03-13 19:54:25


A dose of the new one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination event in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: AFP)

London, March 13 (RHC)-- A prominent charity organization says the number of excess coronavirus vaccines secured by the U.S., Britain and the EU is sufficient to inoculate the population of as many as 20 conflict and disaster-stricken countries.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said in a report that the United States, UK, and EU had pre-purchased enough COVID-19 doses to vaccinate their populations more than twice over and the excess doses could vaccinate the people of 20 countries facing humanitarian crises, such as Yemen and Ethiopia.

The U.S.-based charity organization stressed that as many as 46 million people aged over 60 in those deprived countries were at immediate risk from the deadly flu-like disease and unlikely to be vaccinated this year.

"As the pandemic continues to claim lives and destroy livelihoods worldwide, with variants now arising in several countries, the wealthiest countries have continued purchasing enough doses to cover their entire populations several times over -- highlighting and exacerbating the extreme inequality faced by people living in conflict and crisis," IRC president and CEO David Miliband said in a statement.

Miliband also said less than five percent of vaccines from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX scheme would reach countries listed by the IRC as "most vulnerable," and that many people in these countries risk not receiving a vaccine for years.

"It is time for wealthy governments to realize that Covid will not be beaten anywhere until it is beaten everywhere," he stressed.  "Now is the time for bold action: commit to share excess vaccine doses and to provide the financial support needed to help low-income countries actually distribute the doses once received - or risk pushing the end of this pandemic even further out of sight."

The U.S.-based NGO also called on the international community to support health systems in crisis-affected countries, as well as ensuring that vaccines reach those in need.

On Thursday, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres blasted what he called many examples of vaccine nationalism and hoarding during the pandemic.  Guterres said in a statement that wealthier countries are far outpacing poorer nations in vaccinating their populations and called on coronavirus vaccines to be seen as a "global public good."

The UN chief said the global vaccination campaign represents the “greatest moral test of our times,” and criticized “side deals” with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers that undermine access to all people in the world.  “Ensuring that all people are vaccinated and many low-income countries have not yet received a single dose is essential to restart the global economy and help the world move from locking down societies to locking down the virus,” Guterres said.

“The world needs to unite to produce and distribute sufficient vaccines for all, which means at least doubling manufacturing capacity around the world,” he added.  “That effort must start now.”

Some 117 million people are confirmed to have been infected by the coronavirus and more than 2.6 million people have lost their lives, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Also on Thursday, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Italy announced that they would temporarily suspend the use of British drugmaker AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine over concerns about patients developing post-jab blood clots.  Thailand was also the latest country to have delayed the use of the Astra-Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine over safety concerns.  The Asian nation is the first country outside of Europe to suspend the use of the Astra-Zeneca shot.

AstraZeneca says it has found no evidence of an increased risk of formation of blood clots in the safety data of more than ten million records.


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