UN General Assembly opener highlights pandemic, COVID-19 vaccine gaps

On the first day of high-level discussion at the United Nations General Assembly, leaders of Brazil and the United States were among the first to address the gathering, underscoring underlying tensions about COVID-19 measures but also drawing needed attention to vaccine gaps.

World leaders weigh in COVID measures

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, the first to speak, touched on the pandemic in his speech, but other elements of his presence drew attention to his defiance over tough COVID-19 measures, according to the Washington Post.

Bolsonaro reportedly isn't fully vaccinated, and United Nations rules specify that those in the General Assembly hall must be vaccinated under an "honor system." Brazil's leader has said he doesn't need to be vaccinated, because he has immunity following a previous infection.

During his speech, he said his administration supports vaccination efforts, but not vaccine passports or mandates. He also said COVID-19 restrictions have hurt country economies, according to Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden in his address to leaders said collective action and political will is needed to bring the pandemic to an end. He said a new mechanism is needed to fund global health security against future threats.

He also alluded to a global COVID-19 virtual summit he is hosting tomorrow, and he hinted that the United States will make additional commitments.

More global headlines

  • In Australia, violent protests flared in Melbourne for the second day in a row, with protesters airing frustrations about lockdowns and pushing back against a plan to require construction workers to be vaccinated, according to the Washington Post.

  • China reported 42 more cases today in Fujian province outbreaks, including 36 from Xiamen, according to the country's National Health Commission.

  • The global total today topped 229 million and is at 229,400,528 cases, along with 4,705,370 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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