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Vaccine Gap Deepens

WebPublicaPress (New York) – Despite issues in deliveries and the sluggish vaccine rollout, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen says the bloc “made good progress” with its inoculation drive, DW (Deutsche Welle) reported. And, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen defended the EU’s vaccination record on Sunday and doubled down on ambitious inoculation targets.

“We want to have vaccinated 70% of adults in Europe by the end of summer. That would be the approximate time period that we would need to reach such a vaccination rate,” she said in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen takes off her maskEU’s Ursula von der Leyen said there was no vaccination race with the US and the UKUN TRY TO WARN OF VACCINATION GAPAt the same time in the United Nations in New York, Secretary General Antonio Guterres warnedthe distribution of vaccines for COVID-19 was not going in a fully just way for poor and somehow marginalized countries – unlike those rich and powerful.Guterres said more than 70 million doses have been administered in the rich countries, while less than twenty thousand of these were on the African continent.”A global immunity gap puts everyone at risk,” he warned. And added world needs ”a global vaccination campaign to deal with a global pandemic.”

“If the virus continues to circulate in the Global South, it will inevitably mutate. New variants – and we are already seeing it – could be more deadly and more transmissible and threaten the effectiveness of current vaccines and diagnostics, prolonging or risking to prolong the pandemic significantly.”

Not for the first time Guterres warns about “vaccine nationalism” describing it as a  ”economic as well as a moral failure.”

And he reminded that the latest research by the International Chamber of Commerce shows that

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres UN 4 February 2020 WPP photo

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres WPP photo

without support to the developing world, this crisis could cost the global economy up to US$9.2 trillion – almost half, including in the wealthiest countries.

That figure is 340 times more than the $27 billion funding gap that we have now in the ACT-Accelerator – our best tool to make vaccines available to everyone, everywhere and speed up a global recovery.

“While every country has the right – and the duty – to protect its own people, no country can afford to neglect the rest of the world.

I thank the states and organizations that are supporting COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator and welcome the United States’ announcement that it will join them.

“We must close the funding gap; ramp-up vaccine production by making licenses widely available and sharing technology; and get doses into the arms of all who need them – starting with health workers and those most at risk around the world,” Guterres said – WebPublicaPress reported.

EU PERSISTS WITH THE CAMPAIGN

Her remarks echo a pledge she made earlier this month, with her second-in-command, EU Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, clarifying that “summer” was to mean the time between June and the end of August.

Talking to ZDF (German broadcaster), Von der Leyen sidestepped a question comparing the EU’s somewhat sluggish vaccination rates to those in the United States and the United Kingdom.

“I think the only race we are in is with the virus and against time,” she said.

So far, 18 million vaccine doses have been delivered to the EU and 12 million people out of the bloc’s 446 million population have gotten at least a first dose.

“That is an impressive figure compared to the size of the European Union. We’ve made good progress,” she added.Von der Leyen admitted that February and March will be “difficult” months, but said that the vaccine delivery problems should be largely lifted after those points.

The bloc’s vaccination targets have been put in jeopardy by delays in delivery of the AstraZeneca/Oxford and BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines.

More AstraZeneca doses secured

Von der Leyen’s remarks came following talks on Sunday between the EU Commission chief and seven pharma executives from companies that have vaccine contracts with the EU.

During the talks AstraZeneca extended an olive branch to the bloc. The company agreed to supply an additional 9 million doses of its vaccine during the first quarter.

Von der Leyen praised the move as a “step forward” on Twitter, adding that the company “will also expand its manufacturing capacity in Europe.”

However, even the new delivery target of 40 million doses by the end of March is still only half of the company’s original pledge.

The curbs announced last week sparked a tense spat between the company and the EU, which accused AstraZeneca of not upholding its contractual obligations.

AstraZeneca blamed production issues at a production site in Belgium, initially saying it would need to curb 60% of its promised deliveries to the EU in the first three months of 2021.

The EU voiced concerns that AstraZeneca was treating the EU unfairly compared to other customers, including Britain.

On Friday, the EU moved to tighten rules on vaccine exports, sparking a complaint from the United Kingdom. (DW)

 

 

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