The Biden administration has announced which countries will share in the first 25 million Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by the U.S. to help low- and middle-income nations combat the pandemic.
The decision comes after months of internal debate and growing pressure from America’s allies to share shots.
– Nineteen million doses will be routed through the global aid program COVAX to countries in Central and South America, Asia and Africa.
– Another 6 million doses will be split among nations including Mexico, Canada and South Korea, as well as U.N. health workers.
The donation will include a mixture of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna.
It’s a tale of two pandemics as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka run low on vaccines while U.S. has fully inoculated 38% of population.
Cases and deaths hit records in India and flow over to its neighbors, as AFP reported. India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, has said it will not export any more doses until year-end as it struggles to contain a deepening crisis. That has left Asian countries scrambling to secure supplies and some are looking to China and Russia. India is also looking for supplies on international markets and has started to import Russia’s Sputnik V to make up for domestic shortages.
The European Union pledged to donate 100 million vaccine doses to poorer countries at the start of a global G-20 summit Friday, at which world leaders are expected to stress the need to scale up vaccine efforts all around the world.
Pfizer and BioNTech told the summit they would provide 2 billion doses of their vaccine to middle- and low-income countries in the next 18 months.
That comes after agencies, including the World Health Organization, the United Nations, UNICEF and the Red Cross, have made appeals for greater vaccine equity. Experts have emphasized that leaving poorer countries out of the vaccine push will allow variants to emerge that have the potential to become resistant to the current vaccines.
The Palestinian enclave was already in a dire state. This latest war with Israel has made it worse, damaging the health and sewage systems, closing schools and displacing tens of thousands.
The nine-day battle between the Israeli military and Hamas militants has resulted in 17 hospitals and clinics damaged in Gaza, wrecked its only coronavirus test laboratory, sent fetid wastewater into its streets and broke water pipes serving at least 800,000 people, setting off a humanitarian crisis that is touching nearly every civilian in the crowded enclave of about two million people.
Sewage systems inside Gaza have been destroyed. A desalination plant that helped provide fresh water to 250,000 people in the territory is offline. Dozens of schools have been damaged or closed, forcing some 600,000 students to miss classes. Some 72,000 Gazans have been forced to flee their homes. And at least 213 Palestinians have been killed, including dozens of children, with more than 1,000 Gazans wounded.
At least 12 Israeli residents have been killed in the conflict. Damages to Israeli infrastructure include a gas pipeline, the pausing of operations at a gas rig and at two major Israeli airports. But the damage was incomparable to that in Gaza.
The level of destruction and loss of life in Gaza has underlined the humanitarian challenge in the enclave, already suffering under the weight of an indefinite blockade by Israel and Egypt even before the latest conflict.
[The New York Times]
The World Health Organization (WHO) approved for emergency use a COVID-19 vaccine from China’s state-owned drug-maker Sinopharm, bolstering Beijing’s push for a bigger role in inoculating the world.
The vaccine, one of two main Chinese coronavirus vaccines that have been given to hundreds of millions of people in China and elsewhere, is the first developed by a non-Western country to win WHO backing. It is also the first time the WHO has given emergency use approval to a Chinese vaccine for any infectious disease. Its easy storage requirements make it highly suitable for low-resource settings,” a WHO statement said.
This allows it to be included in COVAX, a global programme to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries, which has hit supply problems. read more
“This expands the list of COVID-19 vaccines that COVAX can buy, and gives countries confidence to expedite their own regulatory approval, and to import and administer a vaccine,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing.
The WHO had already given emergency approval to COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and, last week, Moderna.
The Biden administration came out on Wednesday in support of waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, siding with international efforts to bolster production amid concerns about vaccine access in developing nations. President Biden had come under increasing pressure to throw his support behind the proposal, drafted by India and South Africa and backed by many congressional Democrats.
The United States had been a major holdout at the World Trade Organization over a proposal to suspend some of the world economic body’s intellectual property protections, which could allow drug-makers across the globe access to the closely guarded trade secrets of how the viable vaccines have been made.
Support from the White House is not a guarantee that a waiver will be adopted. The European Union has also been standing in the way, and changes to international intellectual property rules require unanimous agreement.
The United States would participate in negotiations at the World Trade Organization over the matter, but a US spokesman said that they would “take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”
Standing against this will be the pharmaceutical industry, which responded angrily to the extraordinary decision. Stephen J. Ubl, the president and chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, called the announcement “an unprecedented step that will undermine our global response to the pandemic and compromise safety.”
[The New York Times]
The relentless pace of death from the global Covid-19 pandemic is now being increasingly borne by the poorest places in the world.
More than 3 million lives have been lost as a result of the novel coronavirus that emerged in 2019, with the latest 1 million recorded deaths coming even faster than the first two. It took about 8.5 months after the initial fatality in China to mark the first million, and just another 3.5 months to reach the second million.
The grim milestone underscores a widening disparity in combating the pandemic, which parallels the gap in vaccine access. While mortality rates have largely slowed in the U.S. and parts of Europe thanks to vaccine rollouts that promise a return to some semblance of a normal life, the developing world is shouldering a rising death toll.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on nations to institute a wealth tax to help reduce global inequality exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
There has been a $5 trillion surge in the wealth of the world’s richest in the past year even as those at the bottom were made increasingly vulnerable, Guterres told a UN economic and social forum on Monday.
With the Covid-19 fallout causing government debt to swell, and hurting poorer people most, wealth taxes are being debated from California to the U.K.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for speeding up the distribution of coronavirus vaccines in poorer nations, arguing the United States and global economies are threatened by the impact of covid-19 on the developing world.
While the United States and other rich countries are hoping for a return to normalcy as soon as this fall, many parts of the developing world are not on pace to have widespread vaccination of their populations until 2023 or 2024. Those countries have largely suffered more devastating economic impacts from Covid-19, in part because they do not have the fiscal capacity to authorize the levels of emergency spending approved in the United States.
In prepared remarks Monday to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs ahead of meetings this week of international finance officials, Yellen called on richer countries to step up both economic and public health assistance to poorer nations reeling from covid. She noted as many as 150 million people across the world risk falling into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis.
“This would be a profound economic tragedy for those countries, one we should care about. But, that’s obvious. What’s less obvious — but equally true — is that this divergence would also be a problem for America,” Yellen said. “Our first task must clearly be stopping the virus by ensuring that vaccinations, testing and therapeutics are available as widely as possible.”
[The Washington Post]
The number of migrants and asylum-seekers who reached Europe in 2020 is the lowest it has been in the past decade, according to a report by the United Nations migration agency. But deaths and disappearances on sea routes remain alarmingly high with only a small fraction of bodies recovered and victims identified.
Of the 93,000 people who entered Europe irregularly last year, roughly 92% did so via the Western, Central and Eastern Mediterranean Sea, as well as through the Atlantic Ocean off West Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands, often on unseaworthy boats.
The International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project has confirmed the death or disappearances of nearly 2,300 people last year. This number is higher than in 2019 and slightly lower than in 2018.
Ten years ago, protesters clamoring for political reform in Syria took to the streets, hoping for change. Instead, there has only been ruin and chaos.
The past decade has shattered the nation and scattered its people. More than half of the population was forced to flee.
“The United Nations stopped counting the dead in 2016 at 400,000. Six million Syrians fled their homeland, escaping across its borders into neighboring countries,” writes correspondent Liz Sly. “Five million are still stranded, barely surviving in substandard conditions. A million climbed into flimsy boats to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.”
Even as foreign humanitarian aid dwindles, millions still languish in limbo in countries bordering Syria, living on the margins of the societies hosting them but too afraid of the grim fate that may await should they try to return. And conditions are only getting worse. “Poverty and food insecurity are on the rise, school enrollment and access to health care are shrinking, and the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out much of the informal work that refugees rely on,” noted a recent report from the U.N.’s refugee agency. “People are at a breaking point,” said UNHCR senior communications adviser Rula Amin. While “the attention of the world has shifted from the Syria crisis and people tend to think that maybe it has become easier, with every passing year, it becomes more difficult, not easier for Syrian refugees.”