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COVAX best platform to ensure effective collective defense: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-02-18 19:45
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MA XUEJING/CHINA DAILY

Calling vaccine equity "the biggest moral test before the global community", United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday appealed for key countries and multilateral organizations to spearhead efforts to guarantee equal access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries.

Ten countries have administered 75 percent of all vaccinations so far, while 130 have not received a single dose, according to the UN chief. Which is, as he said, "wildly uneven and unfair". But it would be substantial underestimation to take it as a mere moral test.

Given the extent of the pandemic's global impact — having infected more than 109 million people and killed at least 2.4 million of them — the present hoarding and de facto monopolization of available vaccines will indefinitely prolong the global campaign against the pandemic and result in greater avoidable losses.

Guterres called for an urgent global vaccination plan that would bring together those with the power to ensure equitable vaccine distribution.

The UN secretary-general wanted the G7 and G20 countries to take the lead by establishing an emergency task force to establish such a plan and coordinate its implementation and financing, which is sensible. But it would be better for all countries with the necessary resources to rally around the World Health Organization-led COVAX program to ensure vaccine equity.

More than a year into this particular pandemic, it should be common sense that no country can effectively protect itself while others are left struggling.

Even if the entire population of a country acquires immunity against the virus, which is virtually impossible, the broken industry and supply chains will still pose huge challenges to that country. The best way out, therefore, remains coordinated, collective defense.

COVAX is the best international platform and framework for such collective defense, because no individual country or group of countries can better make sure available vaccine resources go to where they are most needed. Especially at this point, when vaccines are far from being widely available.

Of course, individual countries can contribute greatly. Major vaccine suppliers such as China and India have dispatched vaccines and promised more to dozens of countries, mostly developing ones.

So far, China has donated vaccines to 53 developing countries and exported vaccines to another 22 countries. It has also committed to a preliminary contribution of 10 million doses of vaccines to COVAX at the WHO's request.

But while COVAX is the best means to ensure the most effective and fair distribution of vaccines, it requires funds.

The United Kingdom has made a sizable financial commitment to COVAX, and the new United States administration has promised it "significant financial support". But the WHO says COVAX needs $5 billion this year.

As the world's most economically capable nations, the other G20 members should also weigh in, as the best outcomes would be realized under the planning and coordination of the COVAX umbrella.

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