US To Donate Extra 500 Million COVID-19 Vaccines, Says Biden

US President Joe Biden convenes a virtual Covid-19 Summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, on September 22, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington, DC. – Biden urged leaders at summit to make sure 70 percent of their populations are covered by next September. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

 

President Joe Biden opened a Covid-19 summit of world leaders Wednesday with a promise to donate a “historic” extra 500 million vaccines to countries struggling to push back against the pandemic.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis,” Biden said. “America will become the arsenal for vaccines as we were the arsenal for democracy in World War II.”

The pledge from Biden at the summit, held virtually from the White House, brings the total US commitment of donated vaccines to 1.1 billion — more than the rest of the world combined.

“The US has already shipped 160 million of these doses to 100 countries,” the White House said in a statement. “For every one shot we’ve put in an American arm to date, we are now donating three shots globally.”

The new tranche of half a billion vaccines will be from Pfizer and aimed at poorer countries.

Biden was also due to challenge world leaders to vaccinate 70 percent of every country by September 2022, the White House said.

In his opening remarks, he stressed that the surge of vaccines must only be donated, with no “political” strings attached — a veiled dig at China in particular.

The United States and other wealthy countries have been criticized by the World Health Organization for their plans to roll out booster shots for elderly and high-risk populations, while much of the world faces a severe shortage in doses.

But a senior US administration official told reporters that Washington is “proving that you can take care of your own, while helping others as well.”

On Tuesday, in his first speech to the UN as president, Biden told delegates that the United States had put more than $15 billion towards the global Covid response and shipped more than 160 million doses to other countries.

– 70 percent target –

Despite the development of safe and highly effective vaccines in record-breaking time, huge disparities exist between countries with ample supply and others that have barely begun their immunization campaign.

Just 3.6 percent of Africa’s eligible population has been inoculated — compared with an average of more than 60 percent in Western Europe.

The summit — technically held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly — saw Biden and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield hosting a wide variety of health and foreign leaders.

They included UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the heads of Britain, Canada, the European Union, Indonesia, and South Africa.

Washington will seek to rally the world around three goals, the administration official said.

These are: increasing vaccine supply; saving lives now by resolving the oxygen crisis and access to testing, medicine and therapeutics; and lastly improving future preparedness.

On vaccines, Biden will set an “ambitious target, which will require all countries to step up, so that every country, including low income and low middle income countries can achieve 70 percent vaccination before” next year’s UN General Assembly, the official said.

While the latest global coronavirus wave peaked in late August, the virus continues to spread rapidly, particularly in the United States, which is officially the worst-hit country.

Some 4.7 million have died since the outbreak began in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

AFP

Buhari Meets WTO DG, Okonjo-Iweala On Production Of Vaccine

President Buhari at a meeting with Dr Okonjo-Iweala and Mr Onyeama at a meeting in New York, the United States.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has met with the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, ahead of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The discussions between the duo centred on getting manufacturers of vaccines to invest in production in Nigeria, and Africa at large and help economies recover faster.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who accompanied him to the United States alongside other appointees, spoke about the speech to be delivered by President Buhari while addressing world leaders on Friday.

“Mr President is going to be addressing the world,” he said. “So, what we will see from this is Nigeria’s vision, Mr president’s global vision on key issues of priority like development, climate change, security, women empowerment, good governance, anti-corruption, illicit financial flows, and restitution.”

While Nigeria hopes for a great outing as the general debates begin on Tuesday, President Buhari has been engaging top government officials in strategic meetings.

Meanwhile, Channels Television correspondent reported that a protest erupted in Manhattan, close to the United Nations Headquarters where the session is taking place.

President Buhari at a meeting with Dr Okonjo-Iweala in New York, the United States.

 

Two groups of Nigerians in diaspora bore their minds on the state of the nation, both having opposing views about the unity of the country.

Although protests such as this have been reported at conferences like this in the past, what seems to resonate for the two parties is tackling the nation’s challenges and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the coming years.

The theme for this year’s UNGA is, ‘Building Resilience Through Hope – To Recover from COVID-19, Rebuild Sustainably, Respond to the Needs of the Planet, Respect the Rights of People and Revitalise the United Nations’.

While in the U.S., the President and members of the delegation will partake in other events such as the high-level meeting to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, themed ‘Reparations, Racial Justice, and Equality for People of African Descent’.

He is expected back in the country on September 26.

India To Resume COVID-19 Vaccine Export In October – Minister

A health worker prepares a dose to inoculate a woman with the Covaxin Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a school-turned-vaccination centre in New Delhi on May 5, 2021. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP

 

India will resume exporting Covid-19 vaccines from October, five months after it stopped sending supplies abroad in the face of a deadly wave of infections, the health minister said Monday.

The South Asian giant, dubbed the “pharmacy of the world”, was a major supplier to the Covax programme aimed at ensuring poor countries can access doses.

Exports stopped in April, according to foreign ministry data, when a virus surge in India pushed the healthcare system to breaking point and there was a huge demand for jabs.

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said more than 300 million vaccine doses would be produced in October and one billion in the last three months of the year.

“India will be resuming export of vaccines… in order to fulfill the commitment of India towards Covax,” Mandaviya said in a statement.

“The surplus supply of vaccines will be used to fulfill our commitment towards the world for the collective fight against Covid-19.”

Covax is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, with UNICEF using its vaccine logistics expertise to handle the delivery flights.

Under Covax, the 92 poorest countries can access jabs for free, with donors covering the cost.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) plant, producing AstraZeneca doses, was supposed to be the early backbone of Covax’s supply chain.

A Gavi spokesman welcomed the news from New Delhi.

“This could have an immense positive impact on both health security within India as well as globally,” he told AFP.

“Our priority right now is to engage with the government of India and the SII to understand the impact this will have on our supply schedule, as we race to protect as many vulnerable people as we can from Covid-19.”

Some 5.9 billion coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered around the world, according to an AFP count.

So far, Covax has shipped 286 million doses — far below where it wanted to be at this stage — to 141 participating economies.

In a tweet, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged world leaders to “guarantee vaccine equity and equitable access to other Covid-19 tools”.

Launched in January, India’s vaccination campaign was slow to take off because of shortages and hesitancy among the population.

But the pace has picked up in recent weeks, with authorities currently administering between five to eight million coronavirus shots every day.

The country hit a record 22 million coronavirus jabs in a day on Friday as part of a special vaccination drive for the birthday of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

AFP

Los Angeles To Make COVID-19 Vaccines Compulsory For Schoolkids

File photo: A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a community vaccination event in a predominately Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, August 11, 2021. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

 

Covid-19 vaccines are expected to be made compulsory Thursday for Los Angeles schoolchildren aged 12 and over, the first such requirement by a major education board in the United States.

The vote by the Los Angeles Unified School District — the second biggest in the country — comes as the nation grapples with surging coronavirus numbers, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

It also comes as President Joe Biden is set to unveil vaccine mandates for federal employees, as part of a plan to wrestle the Covid caseload under control.

Around 600,000 students attend a public school managed by LAUSD, and the expected passage of the motion at Thursday’s meeting could set a precedent for school boards across the country.

The district already mandates regular testing for children, and masks are required on campus, both indoors and out. Staff must be vaccinated.

Under the proposal, all children attending in-person classes would need to have their first dose by November 21, and their second by December 19.

A child who turns 12 will have 30 days to get their first shot.

The plan has the support of teachers’ unions and many parents, but — as elsewhere in the United States — a significant and vocal minority is strongly opposed to vaccines, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that they are safe and effective.

READ ALSO: France Grants Citizenship To 12,000 Foreign COVID-19 Frontline Workers

Local health officials say around 58 percent of those aged between 12 and 18 have had at least one shot.

The motion, which is expected to pass, says action is required to stem the rising number of infections among schoolchildren, which has threatened to derail a so-far successful return to classrooms after a lengthy hiatus last year.

Covid-19 “is a material threat to the health and safety of all students within the LAUSD community, and is a further threat to the successful return to continuous in-person instruction,” it says.

Vaccines, masks and other mitigation measures against Covid-19 have become deeply political issues in the United States.

Republican-led states and counties, citing personal freedoms, have resisted imposing rules that doctors say would protect their populations.

A free and widely available vaccine program is credited with taming earlier surges in the coronavirus, a disease that has claimed more than 650,000 lives and sickened millions more in the United States.

But Delta’s emergence has threatened to reverse progress, and case numbers have risen nationwide in recent months, concentrated in places where vaccine take-up is low.

AFP

COVID-19 Vaccines: Next Step Of Response Will Depend On Health Workers – Ihekweazu

File photo of NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu during a meeting with Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma in Owerri on April 18, 2020.

 

The next step in Nigeria’s COVID-19 response will be dependent on health workers, says the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.

Nigeria commenced its second phase of vaccination on Monday, and within the coming weeks, is expected to roll out over four million doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Speaking at the flag-off ceremony which was held at the Federal Medical Centre in Jabi, Abuja, Dr Ihekweazu said healthcare workers are the ones who will play the next pertinent role in the nation’s response to the disease.

He said, “the next step of this will depend on healthcare workers, the distribution; and making the vaccines available to the last mile will depend on an incredible group of Nigerians that have been working hard for the last 18 months to deliver vaccines, test people, do contact tracing and treat individuals”.

While disclosing that the country’s treatment centres are filling up again, the NCDC boss said health officials are working tirelessly to beat the pandemic.

The NCDC boss commended the frontline officials for their efforts and urged them not to rest on their oars.

He also called on Nigerians to keep supporting health personnel as they deliver the vaccines nationwide. He asked the citizens to act responsibly as the second phase of the vaccination begins.

READ ALSO: Fiji Mandates COVID-19 Vaccines For Civil Servants

READ ALSO: Nigeria Kicks Off Phase Two Of Covid Vaccination

Phase II Begins

The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, and others watch as a man takes the COVID-19 vaccine on August 16, 2021. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

The second phase of the vaccination programme commenced days after the US donated over four million doses of the Moderna vaccine.

The flag-off ceremony was attended by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha

Others were the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire; the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora; and the Medical Director of the FMC, Professor Aliyu Ahmed.

The exercise was scheduled for August 10 but later postponed due to “purely administrative” reasons, according to Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed.

Apart from the over four million Moderna doses, the government has also taken delivery of 177,600 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The single-shot J&J vaccine was acquired through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) with support from Afrexim bank.

The J&J vaccines are expected to be deployed in hard-to-reach areas, to eliminate the need for travel for a second dose.

Only about one percent of Nigeria’s population has been fully vaccinated, so far.

NYC Orders COVID-19 Vaccines Or Weekly Tests For All Public Workers

File Photo: Carl Court / POOL / AFP

 

New York City will require all municipal workers to get vaccinated against coronavirus or take a weekly test, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday as the Delta variant fuels an uptick in cases in the metropolis.

The order will go into effect from September 13 and will apply to more than 300,000 city personnel, including police officers, fire fighters and teachers.

“This is about our recovery. This is about keeping people safe,” de Blasio told a press conference.

The move comes after the mayor announced last week that the city’s 30,000 public hospital workers would need to get vaccinated or face weekly testing from August 2.

The measure announced Monday is the most stringent measure taken so far in the US megacity to boost vaccination rates following a campaign based on voluntary participation and incentives.

In New York, 59 percent of the entire population has received at least one dose of a vaccine against Covid-19 but the speed of injections has slowed.

Controversy is building in the United States over what steps should be taken to increase vaccination rates against the Delta variant, which accounts for more than 89 percent of US infections, according to estimates.

READ ALSO: World Bank To Finance Extra COVID-19 Jabs For Poorer Nations

Many health officials are pushing to make vaccination mandatory, at least for certain segments of the population.

On Monday, 57 medical groups representing millions of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health workers called for mandatory vaccinations for all health staff.

“The health and safety of US workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it,” said the statement, whose signatories included the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association.

Several Republican-led states have instead passed laws banning coercive measures, though, particularly in schools.

The September 13 date will coincide with the return of one million students to New York’s public schools for the new academic year.

AFP

 

Taraba Receives 56,250 Doses Of AstraZeneca Vaccines

Officials in Taraba receive the AstraZeneca vaccines on behalf of the state government on March 11, 2021.

 

The Taraba State government has taken delivery of its first batch of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for onward vaccination of its residents through the Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA).

A total of 56,250 doses of the vaccines were sent to the state via the Yola International Airport in the north-eastern part of the country.

The Permanent Secretary of the State Ministry of Health, Dr Ebenezer Apake, received the vaccines on behalf of the state government on Thursday.

He noted that at least 80 per cent of the state’s population needed to be vaccinated in order to be protected against the pandemic.

“These vaccines, even though developed in record time, should be effective in reducing the severity of cases,” said Apake who urged residents to avail themselves for vaccination.

Despite receiving the vaccines, he said the state government would not in any way lower its guard on adherence to the safety protocols of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.

The agency saddled with the responsibility of vaccination – PHCDA – said it has trained a total of 254 staff to carry out the exercise, as well as sensitised residents on what the vaccine was about.

Its Executive Secretary, Aminu Jauro, noted that they have intensified their efforts in curbing the spread of the disease across the 168 wards of the state.

He disabused the minds of residents on the insinuations that the vaccine was allergic, saying frontline health workers would receive the first jab in Taraba.

“To allay the fears of residents towards the uptake of the vaccines, we have carried out sensitisation workshops with all stakeholders – which is very key,” Jauro said.

In his remarks, the coordinator of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Taraba, Farouk Umar, said they would provide the needed technical support to the state health sector.

“We are part of the planning for the coming of the vaccines to administration for proper following of the right protocol,” he said.

The arrival of the Oxford Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccines in Jalingo is seen as a sign of hope in the midst of despair in view of the rising number of cases in the state.

Since the beginning of the outbreak in Nigeria, Taraba has recorded 881 infections, out of which 55 patients are on admission and 22 deaths.

Lagos Govt Receives COVID-19 Vaccines

The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Health, Oreoluwa Finnih, shared a photo of the delivery of the vaccines on Twitter.

 

The Lagos State government has received doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from the Federal Government.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu disclosed this on Tuesday at an event held at Police College in Ikeja, but he did not reveal the figure of vaccine doses delivered to the state.

The event was organised by the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation to commemorate the 2021 International Women’s Day.

In his remarks, Governor Sanwo-Olu revealed that the state government received the vaccines at about 4am on Tuesday, noting that they have been kept in a safe place.

He assured the people of the state that the government would soon commence the vaccination exercise.

The governor stated that this would be carried out in line with the scheduled guidelines laid down by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

He, therefore, appealed to the residents to continue to keep to all the COVID-19 protocols such as wearing of facemasks, washing and sanitising their hands, as well as observing social distancing.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Health, Oreoluwa Finnih, shared a photo and a video of the delivery of the vaccines on Twitter.

 

Nigeria took delivery of about four million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines last week, as part of an overall 16 million doses planned to be delivered to the country in batches over the next few months.

The vaccines were provided by COVAX, in an unprecedented global effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

On Saturday last week, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, received their first shots of the vaccines.

Both leaders took the vaccine jabs publicly at the State House in Abuja, in the presence of some members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

NAFDAC Concludes Final Test, Certifies AstraZeneca Vaccines Safe For Use In Nigeria

In this file photo, a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table. AFP
In this file photo, a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table. AFP

 

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has certified the AstraZeneca vaccine safe for use in Nigeria.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, announced this on Friday at an event held at the National Hospital in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

He explained that the government agency cleared the vaccine for use in the country after it concluded its final test on it.

“The long-awaited day is here on which Nigerians can now join others in the global community to be vaccinated against the dreaded COVID-19 virus.

“For us in the health sector, it is a relief and the marking of the start of a tedious but hopeful exercise to see our fellow citizens develop immunity against this virus,” he told the gathering at the event.

Ehanire added, “I am also relieved again to announce that at 12 minutes past midnight today (Friday), I got a text message informing me that NAFDAC has certified this vaccine for use, otherwise we will not be sitting here today.”

Amid the rising figure of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the fight against the outbreak received a major boost on Tuesday as Nigeria took delivery of its first batch of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX, a World Health Organisation (WHO)-backed initiative set up to procure and ensure equitable distribution of vaccines for free among countries across the world.

The first shipment of 3,924,000 doses of the vaccines arrived at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja on Tuesday afternoon via an Emirates airplane from India.

In preparation for the distribution, the Federal Government had said the vaccines would be administered in the order of priority, with the frontline health workers on the top of the list.

It noted that it would also consider the elderly and the strategic leaders in the country – such as the President and other key public office holders in the country.

How Vaccines Became Ammunition In Global Diplomacy

KIRKLAND, WA – DECEMBER 28: Pharmacists prepare doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Life Care Center of Kirkland on December 28, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington. Karen Ducey/Getty Images/AFP

 

Covid-19 vaccines are not just coveted as protection from the deadly virus, they are also a currency in the battle for global influence, experts say, especially between China and Russia.

While the United States has been saving its vaccines for Americans, and Europeans struggle with delivery, Beijing and Moscow, as well as India, have been brushing up their prestige by sharing vaccine stocks with poor, vulnerable countries.

“Getting these vaccines into the arms of billions of people is now the most pressing challenge for the international community. This is, in a manner of speaking, the ‘new arms race’,” according to The Soufan Center, a research body.

China, which was already ahead of the game at the start of the pandemic with the distribution of masks, has been supplying several countries with vaccines, sometimes for free.

Some 200,000 doses each went to Algeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, 500,000 to Pakistan and 750,000 to the Dominican Republic.

READ ALSO: Israel, Denmark, Austria Agree Deal For Vaccine Development

“China managed to present itself as a champion of the southern countries at a time when the north showed complete selfishness,” Bertrand Badie, a professor for international relations at Sciences-Po university in Paris, told AFP.

Russia, meanwhile, is proudly distributing its Sputnik V vaccine, named after the first satellites launched by the Soviet Union.

At first derided in Europe, the vaccine has gained in credibility after a positive evaluation in the medical journal The Lancet.

Three EU countries — Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic — opted for the Russian vaccine without waiting for approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), as Europe struggles with long delays in vaccine dose deliveries.

– ‘Way to reclaim power’ –

“For Russia, to show the world that ultimately it suffered less from the coronavirus than the United States, and that Russia is far more efficient (with vaccines) than western European countries, is a way to reclaim power,” Badie told AFP.

“In international relations, the image you project is decisive,” he said, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin has an “obsessive will to re-establish Russian power, have parity with the western world, and to be respected”.

Russia is, however, held back by its limited production capacity, and has had to share the spoils of new global influence with China.

Beijing has helped Serbia to become continental Europe’s Covid vaccination leader.

Hungary has ordered five millions of doses from Sinopharm China, enough to vaccinate a third of its population.

“Beijing has been linking measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic in aid recipient countries with the prospect of post-pandemic cooperation within the BRI framework,” the massive Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure project, according to SWP, a German political research foundation.

“Above all, Beijing wants to be perceived internationally as a ‘responsible great power’,” it said.

– “A third Half-Time” –

India, which is a vaccine production giant, has begun supplying its neighbours, including Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Smaller countries are also using vaccines as diplomatic ammunition.

Israel, considered as the world champion of vaccination, has supplied doses to Honduras, and also to the Czech Republic which is planning to open a diplomatic representation in Jerusalem.

The United Arab Emirates has been supplying targeted donations to Gaza, a Palestinian territory under Israeli blockade, and to Tunisia.

The EU is falling behind diplomatically, but the race is not over, according to a senior EU diplomat.

The Russians and Chinese proceeded “in a rather uncontrolled way, without going though all the validation steps”, the diplomat said.

“However this is a marathon, there will be a second half-time, maybe even a third,” he said.

AFP

WHO Slams Rich Countries For Hogging COVID-19 Vaccines

 

The World Health Organization on Monday blasted wealthy countries for not only hogging Covid vaccines but in doing so, hindering the pathway for poorer nations to get them too.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said some rich countries’ direct deals with manufacturers had meant that previously-agreed vaccine allocations for poorer countries, via the Covax programme, were being reduced.

The UN health agency chief said the money was there to procure doses for some of the poorest countries, following fresh contributions from the United States, the European Union and Germany — but it was worthless if there was nothing to buy.

READ ALSO: Biden Reforming PPP To Target Overlooked Small Businesses

Tedros urged wealthy nations to start checking first as to whether their own deals with pharmaceutical companies were undermining Covax, which poorer countries are relying on as they await their first doses.

“Even if you have the money, if you cannot use the money to buy vaccines, having the money doesn’t mean anything,” he told a virtual press conference with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

– ‘Respect the deals’ –

The ONE Campaign, a global organisation co-founded by U2 singer Bono, said last week that members of the Group of Seven top industrialised nations along with the rest of the EU plus Australia had collectively bought nearly 1.25 billion more doses than they needed to inoculate every member of their populations against Covid-19.

“Some high-income countries are actually approaching manufacturers to secure more vaccines, which is affecting the deals with Covax — and even the amount that was allocated for Covax was reduced because of this,” Tedros said.

“We can only have vaccines delivered to the countries who are members of Covax if the high-income countries cooperate in respecting the deals that Covax did.”

The first wave of Covax vaccines are to be shipped out between late February and the end of June.

Some 145 participating economies are set to receive 337.2 million doses — enough to vaccinate a little over three percent of their combined populations.

Covax has said it hopes to raise the figure to up to 27 percent in lower-income countries by the end of December.

– ‘Increase the pie’ –

The world’s biggest vaccine maker, India’s Serum Institute, on Monday urged other countries to be “patient” about it supplying anti-coronavirus shots, saying it has been instructed to prioritise its home market.

Steinmeier said that although countries were focused on protecting their own citizens from coronavirus, it made sense for the wealthier nations speeding ahead in the vaccine race to ensure that people in poorer nations were jabbed at the same time.

“Governments are first and foremost — and understandably so — committed to their respective publics,” he said.

However, “if we refuse to grant the necessary solidarity, we must not be surprised if other countries come in to fill this vacuum by delivering earlier what is required — and using that that for their own purposes.”

Tedros called for intellectual property rights on Covid-19 medical goods to be waived — a move which could facilitate greater knowledge-sharing and the rapid scale-up of production sites.

The idea, currently before the World Trade Organization, is staunchly opposed by pharmaceutical giants.

Tedros also urged pharmaceutical companies that were not making their own Covid-19 vaccines to turn over their facilities to produce other companies’ doses, as Sanofi has done for the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

“If we increase the pie, then better opportunities to share it equitably too.”

Steinmeier however said he did not think a waiver for patents or licensing “would be the right approach”.

Vaccine Production Must Catch Up To Science – EU Chief

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement following a phone call meeting with Britain's Prime Minister, at the European Commission in Brussels on December 13, 2020. Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement following a phone call meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister, at the European Commission in Brussels on December 13, 2020. Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP

 

Europe’s race to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines must accelerate to catch up to scientific breakthroughs and outpace emerging variants, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.

“We underestimated the difficulty related to mass production. Normally, it takes five to 10 years to produce a new vaccine. We did it in 10 months. This is a huge scientific success, and we should be rightly proud — but in a way, science has outstripped industry,” she told the European Parliament.

In her first public admission to Europeans — outside of some select media interviews — von der Leyen said her Commission had made missteps in procuring vaccines on behalf all EU countries.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Receives First Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

But she defended the overall strategy.

“We were late to authorise. We were too optimistic when it came to massive production. And perhaps we were too confident that what we ordered would actually be delivered on time,” she said.

But to have allowed Europe’s wealthiest countries to grab vaccines for themselves and leave others in the cold “would have been, I think, the end of our community,” she said.

– ‘We got it right’ –

There were lessons to be learnt, von der Leyen said, and her Commission would do so.

They included getting more data shared between clinics in EU countries, improving regulations to allow the European Medicines Agency to move faster in authorising vaccines, and especially to clear industrial bottlenecks to vaccine production.

“Industry must adapt to the pace of science,” she said, noting that vaccines can contain as many as 400 ingredients and manufacturing involve as many as 100 companies.

A vaccine production task force under internal market commissioner Thierry Breton was charged with that mission, she said.

“We’re dealing with completely new mRNA vaccines never manufactured at scale before. One of the current bottlenecks is, for example, linked to synthetic molecules… we need more coordination on the supply of key ingredients.”

Von der Leyen warned that European scientists do not yet know if the vaccines will be effective against new mutant strains of the virus that are emerging.

“But we do know these variants will continue to emerge. And we do know that we need to anticipate and prepare immediately,” she warned.

She also said deeply regretted an aborted bid by the Commission last month to try to restrict vaccines being transported into Britain’s territory of Northern Ireland as part of a bitter row with Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which has failed to deliver vaccine doses it promised to the EU.

But she stressed that “in the end, we got it right” and a hastily set-up EU vaccine export control scheme would not “restrict companies that are honouring their contracts with the European Union” and vaccines to most of the bloc’s neighbours would be unhindered.

The Commission, she emphasised, “will do its utmost to protect the peace of Northern Ireland, just as it has done throughout the entire Brexit process”.