Amid looming shortfall of doses, UNICEF calls for global, equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

Published: May 18,2021 12:29 PM

Story highlights

The United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on Monday called for a global, equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics to curb the spread of the virus.

May 18, 2021: Warning of a COVID-19 vaccine shortfall of nearly 190 million doses by next month, the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on Monday called for a global, equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics to curb the spread of the virus.

In a statement, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that COVAX - the global COVID vaccine equity scheme - will be delivering its 65 millionth dose soon, which should have been at least its 170 millionth.

"We have issued repeated warnings of the risks of letting down our guard and leaving low- and middle-income countries without equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics... Cases are exploding and health systems are struggling in countries near - like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives - and far, like Argentina and Brazil. The cost for children and families will be incalculable," she said.

"By the time G7 leaders gather in the UK next month, and as a deadly second wave of COVID-19 will likely continue to sweep across India and many of its South Asian neighbours, the shortfall will near 190 million doses," she warned.

Underscoring the growing risk of deadlier variants of the virus if it is kept unchecked, Fore stated that the COVAX facility, though led by the World Health Organization, Gavi and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), is undersupplied.

The UNICEF chief also expressed concern over the 'tragic' COVID-19 situation. "Among the global consequences of the situation in India, a global hub for vaccine production, is a severe reduction in vaccines available to COVAX," she added.

She further said that due to the increasing demand for vaccines, 140 million doses intended for distribution to low and middle-income countries through the end of May cannot be accessed by COVAX and another 50 million doses are likely to be missed in June.

"This, added to vaccine nationalism, limited production capacity and lack of funding, is why the roll-out of COVID vaccines is so behind schedule," she remarked.

Citing a data analysis, Fore said that G7 nations and European Union (EU) member states could donate around 153 million vaccine doses if they shared just 20 per cent of their available supply over June, July and August.

"While some G7 members have greater supply than others, and some have further advanced domestic rollouts, an immediate collective commitment to pool excess supply and share the burden of responsibility could buttress vulnerable countries against becoming the next global hotspot," she said.

Sharing immediately available excess doses is a minimum, essential and emergency stop-gap measure, and it is needed right now, said Fore.

Earlier, US President Joe Biden on Monday (local time) announced that the country will share 80 million vaccine doses globally over the next six weeks, five times more than any other country has shared to date which represents 13 percent of vaccines produced in the country by June end.

"Today, we're taking an additional step to help the world. We know America will never be fully safe until the pandemic, that's rising globally, is under control. No ocean is wide enough, no walls high enough to keep us safe," said Biden during his address. (ANI)