Thu | May 13, 2021

UK: Poorer nations should get ‘gold-standard’ COVAX vaccines

Published:Monday | March 1, 2021 | 1:54 PM
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab walks across Downing Street in London, Wednesday, February 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON (AP) — British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Monday that he understood the “conundrum” faced by developing countries as they wait for vital supplies of coronavirus vaccine.

But Raab urged poorer nations to wait for the “gold standard” vaccines delivered by an UN-backed programme rather than opt for shots from China and Russia.

The COVAX initiative, formed to ensure fair access to vaccines by low- and middle-income countries, has been hampered by the severely limited global supply of doses and logistical problems.

Speaking on the day that the first COVAX-supplied vaccine shots were given to people in Ivory Coast, Raab said “we understand the conundrum that they feel.”

However, he said countries should consider advice from scientists and the World Health Organization about which vaccines are safest.

Raab said COVAX “is the gold standard of international support for the most vulnerable countries around the world.

And I think they ought to be ambitious to have their people vaccinated according to that gold standard.”

Although it aims to deliver at least two billion shots this year, COVAX currently has legally binding agreements only for several hundred million doses, and far fewer than that have been delivered.

So far, around 500,000 doses have been delivered to Ivory Coast and 600,000 to Ghana.

The chief of the World Health Organization said Monday it was “regrettable” that younger and healthier adults in some rich countries are being vaccinated against the coronavirus ahead of at-risk health workers in developing countries.

At a press briefing on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said immunisations provided by the UN-backed effort COVAX have begun in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, but lamented that this was happening only three months after countries such as Britain, the US and Canada began vaccinating their own populations.

“Countries are not in a race with each other,” he said.

“This is a common race against the virus. We are not asking countries to put their own people at risk. We are asking all countries to be part of a global effort to suppress the virus everywhere.”

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