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Vaccine Inequity Comes into Stark Focus during UN Gathering

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New York, 23 Sep (ONA) --- The inequity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution will come into sharper focus Thursday as many of the African countries whose populations have little to no access to the life-saving shots step to the podium to speak at the U.N.’s annual meeting of world leaders.

 

Already, the struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic has featured prominently in leaders’ speeches — many of them delivered remotely exactly because of the virus. Country after country acknowledged the wide disparity in accessing the vaccine, painting a picture so bleak that a solution has at times seemed impossibly out of reach.

 

“Some countries have vaccinated their populations, and are on the path to recovery. For others, the lack of vaccines and weak health systems pose a serious problem,” Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, said in a prerecorded speech Wednesday. “In Africa, fewer than 1 in 20 people are fully vaccinated. In Europe, one in two are fully vaccinated. This inequity is clearly unfair.”

 

Countries slated to give their signature annual speeches today include South Africa, Botswana, Angola, Burkina Faso, Libya, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

 

Yesterday, during a global vaccination summit convened virtually on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, President Joe Biden announced that the United States (US) would double its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world to 1 billion doses, with the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year.

 

The move comes as world leaders, aid groups and global health organizations have growing increasingly vocal about the slow pace of global vaccinations and the inequity of access to shots between residents of wealthier and poorer nations.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) says only 15% of promised donations of vaccines from rich countries that have access to large quantities of them have been delivered. The UN health agency has said it wants countries to fulfill their dose-sharing pledges “immediately” and make shots available for programs that benefit poor countries and Africa in particular.

 

Climate change has been a major focus during this week’s General Assembly gathering. World leaders made “faint signs of progress” on the financial end of fighting climate change in a special United Nations feet-to-the-fire meeting Monday, but they did not commit to more crucial cuts in emissions of the heat-trapping gases that cause global warming, the Associated Press (AP) news reported.

--- Ends/KH