The world ‘desperately’ needs rich countries to donate Covid vaccines, says former New Zealand prime minister

The world “desperately” needs rich countries to deliver on their pledges to donate Covid-19 vaccines to poorer nations, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday.

Her comment came after health ministers from the Group of 20 leading economies reportedly agreed — on the first of their two-day meeting in Rome — to ensure that Covid vaccines reach everyone in poor countries.

“The pledges are one thing, but we desperately need delivery on those pledges. As of last week, only 89 million doses have been redistributed from high-income countries out to the low- and middle-income countries,” Clark told CNBC’s “Capital Connection.”

Clark co-chaired an independent panel established by the World Health Organization to review the world’s pandemic preparedness and response.

The panel published its final report in May, which recommended that high-income countries redistribute at least one billion doses of Covid vaccines to 92 low- and middle-income countries by Sep. 1, and another one billion doses by mid-2022.  

Surplus doses in rich countries

Experts — including famed epidemiologist Larry Brilliant — have said that wider vaccination coverage is needed to limit new coronavirus variants and put an end to the global pandemic.  

But out of the more than 5 billion Covid vaccine doses administered worldwide, nearly 75% were administered in just 10 countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Sunday in a speech at the G-20 health ministers’ meeting.

Tedros has repeatedly urged wealthy nations to hold off Covid vaccine boosters to give poorer countries a chance to inoculate more of their people with first doses.

Rich countries do have the “spare doses,” said Clark. That can help to meet the WHO’s target of vaccinating 40% of every country’s population by the end of this year, and then raising that number to 70% by the middle of next year, she added.

“We have to meet that to have any chance of curbing the pandemic,” said Clark.

An analysis by Airfinity, a scientific information and analytics company, projected that wealthy nations would have more than 1.2 billion doses of Covid vaccines available for donations in 2021.

That number of surplus doses was calculated after accounting for the needs of wealthy countries, including booster shots, said Airfinity.  

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