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Developing nations slam rich countries for ‘vaccine hoarding’

Leaders from Philippines, Peru and Ghana warn the practice could lead to new coronavirus variants

NEW YORK: Leaders from developing nations warned the United Nations General Assembly this week that Covid-19 vaccine hoarding by wealthy countries left the door open for the emergence of new coronavirus variants, even as infections are already increasing in many places.

The Philippines warned of a "man-made drought" of vaccines in poor countries, Peru said international solidarity had failed and Ghana lamented vaccine nationalism.

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The UN chief António Guterres had earlier described the inequitable distribution of vaccines as an "obscenity."

Speaking to a high-level gathering, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said: "Rich countries hoard life-saving vaccines, while poor nations wait for trickles.

"They now talk of booster shots, while developing countries consider half-doses just to get by. This is shocking beyond belief and must be condemned for what it is - a selfish act that can neither be justified rationally nor morally."

About 35 per cent of people who have received at least one dose of a vaccine were from high-income countries, and at least 28 per cent were from Europe and North America, according to Reuters data.

Meanwhile, vaccination rates in some countries, including Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo, are less than 1 per cent. The African continent bears the worst brunt of vaccine nationalism, Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo told the gathering on Wednesday. About 900 million Africans are still in need of vaccines to reach the 70 per cent threshold achieved in other parts of the world.

Colombian President Ivan Duque said Covid-19 vaccines must be equitably distributed to avoid the creation of new, more fearsome variants of the coronavirus.

"If delays in the equal distribution of vaccines continue in all countries we, humanity, are exposed to new variants attacking us with greater ferocity. Global immunity requires solidarity, so hoarding cannot exist in the face of others' needs," Mr Duque said.

Some countries have acquired enough doses for six or seven times their population and have announced third booster doses, Mr Duque added, while others have not been able to administer any shots.

US President Joe Biden on Wednesday pledged to buy 500 million more Covid-19 vaccine doses to donate to other countries, which will put total US donations to more than 1.1 billion doses as it comes under increasing pressure to share its supply with the rest of the world.

One Campaign, a nonprofit focused on poverty and public health, said the US donation will not be enough and other wealthy countries need to urgently increase support for global vaccination efforts or face leaving more than 2.3 billion around the world still unvaccinated by September next year. - REUTERS

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