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WTO Chief, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Calls On UK To Send Vaccines To Poorer Countries

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New head of World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has called on United Kingdom to donate vaccines to developing countries now rather than waiting until it has a surplus.

Okonjo-Iweala said it was “in the interest” of wealthy countries that all nations access vaccines.

She made the call after UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said the country would donate most of its surplus supply to poorer nations.

On Friday, G7 leaders pledged to intensify co-operation on COVID-19. They agreed to increase their contribution to Covax vaccine-sharing initiative, which is aiming to get at least 1.3 billion doses to vulnerable populations worldwide in the coming months.

Group of Seven (G7) are reckoned as the seven wealthiest and most advanced nations in the world. These countries are; Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Johnson told G7 leaders there was “no point in us vaccinating our individual populations – we’ve got to make sure the whole world is vaccinated because this is a global pandemic”.

COVAX is an organisation aimed accelerating the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world, especially poor nations.

However, UK is determined to first vaccinate its entire adult population, by September at the latest, and ministers expect fresh jabs to be required to combat new variants of the virus.

Addressing the UK government’s plans to donate its surplus vaccines to the developing country after vaccinating its population, Okonjo-Iweala told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “welcome” but needs to be accelerated.

She expressed;

I don’t think we should wait to get surplus when other people have been served. I think that any donations that are coming must come now. The reason is very simple. It’s in the interest of rich countries as well as poor countries to have equitable access.

The new WTO chief cited a study by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which outlined the economic case for global vaccinations.

The ICC-commissioned research found that the world could lose £6.4trillion ($9trillion) if richer countries have vaccinated half their populations and poor countries have not vaccinated theirs by the middle of the year.

Okonjo-Iweala stated;

Half of that cost will be borne by rich countries. So we need to understand that it’s in the self-interest of both rich and poor to have equitable access to vaccines otherwise all counties lose; all people lose.

G7 leaders said in a joint statement released after the virtual summit on Friday that they have raised their overall commitment to the Covax scheme to $7.5bn (£5.3bn).

The leaders’ commitments came just days after UN secretary general António Guterres slated the distribution of vaccines so far as “wildly uneven and unfair“.

Just 10 countries have administered 75% of all vaccinations worldwide, while 130 countries had not yet received a single dose, he said.

Okonjo-Iweala said manufacturing is the biggest constraint in providing vaccines to people quickly.

She encouraged manufacturing companies to issue more licenses in developing countries, so a larger volume of doses could be produced across poorer regions.

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