UN urges global vaccine plan, warns of risky inequity

UNITED NATIONS • The United Nations on Wednesday led calls for a coordinated global effort to vaccinate against Covid-19, warning that gaping inequities in initial efforts put the whole planet at risk.

Foreign ministers met virtually for a first-ever UN Security Council session on vaccinations called by current chair Britain, which said the world had a moral duty to act together against the pandemic that has killed over 2.4 million people.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced alarm that just 10 nations have administered 75 per cent of doses so far – and 130 countries have had none at all. “The world urgently needs a global vaccination plan to bring together all those with the required power, scientific expertise and production and financial capacities,” he said.

He said the Group of 20 major economies was in the best position to set up a task force on financing and implementation of global vaccinations and offered the full support of the UN.

“If the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire in the Global South, it will mutate again and again. New variants could become more transmissible, more deadly and, potentially, threaten the effectiveness of current vaccines and diagnostics.”

There is already a plan to help developing nations – Covax is an initiative funded by donors and governments that aims to procure two billion vaccine doses this year, with options for a further billion.

But aid groups say that many people still risk being left out due to a shortfall in Covax funding to arrange the administration and delicate transportation of vaccines as well as conflicts that make inoculation efforts impossible.

In his first Security Council appearance, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed that President Joe Biden’s administration would take a leadership role after reversing Mr Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the World Health Organisation.

He said the United States would pay up its more than US$200 million (S$266 million) in obligations to the UN body by the end of the month and make a significant contribution to Covax.