The critical situation with the COVID-19 pandemic in India is “not unique,” as many middle- and low-income countries face explosion in cases and struggling health systems, and the world can expect the emergence of more hotspots and dangerous virus variants if the global community does not boost its vaccine-sharing efforts, Henrietta Fore, the chief of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said on Monday.
“We have issued repeated warnings of the risks of letting down our guard and leaving low- and middle-income countries without equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. We are concerned that the deadly spike in India is a precursor to what will happen if those warnings remain unheeded,” Fore said in a statement.
Fore stressed that the UN-backed COVAX facility, the global vaccine equity mechanism, will see a shortage of at least 190 million doses by the G7 summit scheduled for June in the UK. She noted that, as the global leaders prepare for the meeting to discuss “potential emergency stop-gap measure,” several countries alongside India already face a healthcare crisis that should be urgently addressed.
“New data analysis provided by Airfinity, the life sciences research facility, and commissioned by the UK National Committee for UNICEF, indicates that G7 nations and ‘Team Europe’ group of European Union Member States could donate around 153 million vaccine doses if they shared just 20 per cent of their available supply over June, July and August. Critically, they could do so while still meeting their commitments to vaccinate their own populations,” the statement read.
The UNICEF chief urged countries that have access to vaccine supplies and manufacturing capabilities to join “an immediate collective commitment to pool excess supply and share the burden of responsibility,” which would allow to “buttress vulnerable countries against becoming the next global hotspot.”