The same urgency with which Covid-19 vaccines have been developed must be used to distribute them fairly, the World Health Organization chief said, as he urged countries not to leave the most vulnerable behind.
“The light at the end of this long, dark tunnel is growing brighter”, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing on Monday. “There is now real hope that vaccines – in combination with other tried and tested public health measures – will help to end the Covid-19 pandemic.”
However, the WHO head called for the international community to set new standards for access before getting carried away with the good news that the Pfizer-Biotech, Moderna and Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccines have all proven to be efficacious.
“Every government rightly wants to do everything it can to protect its people,” he said. “But there is now a real risk that the poorest and most vulnerable will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines.”
He warned that $4.3 billion (£3.8bn) is needed to immediately to support the mass procurement and delivery of vaccines, tests and treatments through the WHO’s Act-Accelerator scheme. While a further $23.8 billion will be needed next year.
“This isn’t charity,” Dr Tedros said. “It’s the fastest and smartest way to end the pandemic and drive the global economic recovery.”
While the figures are high, Dag-Inge Ulstein, Norway’s minister for international development and co-chair of the WHO’s Act-accelerator scheme, pointed out that that G20 countries could make that money back in as little as two days once the world economy was fully reopened.
“The total need is less than one 10th or one percentage point of global GDP,” he told the same briefing.
“In other words, if G20 countries were to devote just 1 per cent of the current stimulus spending on efforts to alleviate the economic consequences of the pandemic globally, they would actually more than cover the needs of the accelerator.”
“Once full travel and trade are restored, that investment would be repaid in as little as 36 hours 36 hours… I would argue that this is a small price to pay to get the world back on track,” he said.
Previous estimates have said that vaccine nationalism could cost the global economy up to $1.2 trillion dollars.
However, ensuring equitable access to vaccines could provide even greater returns, Dr Tedros suggested.
“The International Monetary Fund estimates that if medical solutions can be made available faster and more widely, it could lead to a cumulative increase in global income of almost 9 trillion US dollars by the end of 2025,” he said.
“The real question is not whether the world can afford to share Covid-19 vaccines and other tools. It’s whether it can afford not to,” he added.
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Source: The Telegraph Travels