Experts, COVID vaccine firms detail ways to scale up fair distribution

Sputnik vax assembly
Sputnik vaccine assembly

International Monetary Fund, Sergey Ponomarev / Flickr cc

After a meeting with vaccine company executives, a multilateral group dedicated to improving global access to COVID-19 vaccines called on countries and manufacturers to urgently take several steps to ensure that 40% of the population in all countries is vaccinated by the end of the year.

In other global developments, UNICEF today urged countries to reopen schools as soon as possible to avoid further impacts on kids and economies.

Highly vaxed countries have 2 billion more doses than they need

The task force, which met for the fourth time, includes the heads of high-level groups including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Trade Organization. They said without urgent steps, the world won't meet its 40% vaccination goal by the end of 2021, which in a statement they note is a critical milestone that is key for ending the pandemic and supporting global economic recovery.

They emphasized that companies are making enough vaccine, but doses aren't reaching low- and middle-income countries, fueling ongoing vaccine inequities.

Many of the steps the task force recommends have already been aired by health groups working on vaccine inequity.

Countries with high vaccination rates have already bought 2 billion more doses than they need to fully vaccinate their populations, so the task force again called on the countries to swap their near-term delivery schedules with COVAX and Africa's vaccine initiative. They also pushed countries to fulfill their donation pledges and release vaccine companies from contracts and options so the companies can funnel supplies to developing countries.

The group also urged countries to eliminate expert restrictions, high tariffs, and customs' bottlenecks on vaccines and the raw materials used to produce the.

Also, the task force called on companies to share details about monthly delivery schedules and for regulatory agencies to standardize the approval of vaccines and to support the WHO's emergency use listing system.

UNICEF: school closure losses may be permanent

UNICEF yesterday called on countries to reopen schools as soon as possible to ease multiple negative impacts on kids, including missed education, meals, and vaccination, and to avoid worsening the global economic crisis.

In a statement, the group said schools in six countries are mostly closed, affecting 77 million children. Among them are Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Panama. Henrietta Fore, UNICEF's director said millions of students are heading into a third academic year without being in the classroom. "The losses that students are incurring from not being in school may never be recovered," she said.

Though remote learning has been a lifeline for millions of students, technology and curriculum quality has been uneven, UNICEF said.

In urging countries to reopen schools as soon as possible, UNICEF recommended several mitigation steps, including masking policies, providing handwashing facilities or hand sanitizer, frequent surface cleaning, ensuring adequate ventilation, and cohorting (keeping students and staff in small groups as a strategy to limit mixing).

More global headlines

  • A report today from six United Nations organizations said after a temporary drop in carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, levels are rapidly rising again, putting the world nowhere close to targets spelled out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

  • Indonesia is in talks with the WHO to become another regional vaccine production hub, according to an exclusive report from Reuters.

  • In outbreak developments, Australia's Victoria state, where the virus is spreading in Melbourne, reported a record daily high for cases, as daily infections remain above 1,000 a day in the New South Wales state city of Sydney. China today reported 48 more local cases from three cities in Fujian province where outbreaks are underway.

  • The global total today rose to 266,870,408 cases, and 4,666,053 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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