UN calls for ‘people’s vaccine’

Jun 05 2020

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FRANKFURT MAIN: Europe ramped up efforts to help its coronavirus-hit economies on Thursday as the UN chief called for a “people’s vaccine” to battle the pandemic.

With Brazil and Mexico seeing record deaths after Latin America became the new hotspot for the disease, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a new vaccine against the coronavirus had to be available to everyone across the world.

“A vaccine must be seen as a global public good — a people’s vaccine, which a growing number of world leaders are calling for,” he said in a message to a virtual summit hosted by Britain that aims to raise funds for Gavi, the global vaccine alliance.

The meeting aims to raise $7.4 billion for immunisation programmes stalled by the pandemic, and launch a new fundraising drive to support potential Covid-19 vaccines. There needed to be “global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access”, the UN chief added. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for a “new era of global health cooperation” to “unite humanity in the fight against disease”, particularly in the poorest countries.

More than 50 countries are taking part in the meeting, as well as individuals such as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, to raise funds for Gavi. Over the next five years, it wants to reboot halted programmes and provide vaccines at a much-reduced cost to some 300 million children worldwide. Gavi and its partners will also launch a financing drive to purchase potential Covid-19 vaccines, scale-up their production and support delivery to developing nations.

Since emerging in China late last year, the new coronavirus has infected at least 6.5 million people, killed more than 385,000 and wreaked havoc on the global economy by forcing millions to stay inside their homes.

In Europe where countries have been emerging from lockdowns, the European Central Bank on Thursday dramatically boosted aid for eurozone economies, adding 600 billion euros ($674bn) to its emergency bond-buying scheme.

The Pandemic Emer­gency Purchase Programme (PEPP), which will keep up access to much-needed credit for companies, households and governments, now totals some 1.35 trillion euros.

ECB chief Christine Lagarde said the eurozone economy would see a sharp contraction of 8.7 per cent this year, but she predicted a rebound in 2021 and 2022.

Hoping the worst of the health crisis has passed, Europe is struggling to restart its stalled economies without sparking a second wave of infections.

Governments are especially keen to save what they can of the summer tourism season and, after easing national lockdowns, were reopening borders this week.

But as Europeans enjoyed reopened cafes and dreamt of Mediterranean holidays, the virus was hitting South and Central America with its full force.

Mexico on Wednesday announced more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a day for the first time, while Brazil, the region’s worst-hit country, reported a record 1,349 daily deaths.

In Chile, the government said it was extending a three-week shutdown of the capital Santiago after a new record for daily deaths.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2020