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European Union to double Covax vaccine funding to 1 billion euros

The European Union's executive commission plans to double its contribution to the World Health Organisation's Covax programme

Coronavirus Vaccine | Coronavirus Tests

AP | PTI  |  Brussels 

Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

The European Union's executive commission plans to double its contribution to the World Health Organisation's COVAX programme, bringing the 27-nation bloc's commitment to the initiative to deliver vaccines to poor nations to 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion).

According to an EU official who spoke anonymously, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen will make the announcement later Friday during a meeting of the leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers.

The official was not authorised to speak publicly because details have not been made public.

Von der Leyen will also announce an additional 100 million euros ($121.4 million) to support vaccination campaigns in Africa in partnership with the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The EU is one of the leading donors to the COVAX programme, which aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 shots for low-and middle-income countries. COVAX hopes to deploy some 336 million doses by the end of June, and around 2 billion doses by the end of the year.

But the programme has already missed the goal of starting vaccination in poor countries at the same time that doses were rolled out in rich countries.

This week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sharply criticised the wildly uneven and unfair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75% of the vaccinations given worldwide so far and demanding a global effort to get all people in every nation vaccinated as soon as possible.

Amnesty said a failure to ensure global access to vaccines represents an abject moral failure that will ultimately harm rich countries."

The leaders of G-7 nations are shooting themselves in the foot by failing to ensure the equal distribution of vaccines globally, Netsanet Belay, the research and advocacy director at Amnesty International, said as the G-7 leaders prepared to hold their first meeting of the year.

The European Union has been criticised for its handling of the bloc's vaccine procurement process. Despite the EU securing a portfolio of up to 2.6 billion doses that would be largely sufficient to inoculate its 450 million residents, vaccinations in Europe have been slowed down by delays in the production and deliveries of shots.

In addition to its COVAX contribution, the EU said it plans to share some of its doses with neighbours in Europe and Africa. Von der Leyen has regularly insisted that global solidarity is needed not only to help the world's poorest countries but also to protect the EU, as nobody is safe until everybody is safe.

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First Published: Fri, February 19 2021. 17:57 IST