President of the Global Alliance for Vaccines (Gavi), José Manuel Barroso, on Thursday called on the European Union to accelerate access to vaccines in developing countries by increasing multilateral contributions and donating excess doses through the Covax platform.
“We have the capacity to distribute 1.8 billion vaccines to low-income countries to protect high-risk populations, but to achieve this goal we need $2 billion of additional funds,” said Barroso.
“Additional contributions to Gavi and Covax are essential for the European Union (EU) to show its leadership in global health, strengthen its support to Africa and boost international solidarity to control the pandemic,” he added.
The Gavi official’s appeal was made in a video message broadcast during a panel on EU-Africa cooperation on access to vaccines for Covid-19 during the global health conference organised by the Portuguese government as part of the presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The speed of access is key and the European Union can help speed up the process by ensuring that excess vaccine doses are donated through Covax, Gavi’s president also said.
The former president of the European Commission and former Portuguese prime minister also acknowledged the important contribution of the European Union – one of the largest donors of the Covax platform – for the distribution of vaccines to developing countries, saying that it is the only real worldwide multilateral effort in the context of the pandemic.
We know there will be enough vaccines for everyone in developed countries. The question is to share the excess doses. We have a problem with speed and so it is important to commit to this partnership as soon as possible, he said.
According to Barroso, since 24 February, when the first Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Ghana, more than 30 million doses have been distributed by Covax in 55 countries participating in the Gavi and World Health Organization (WHO)-led platform.
We can celebrate the success that was made possible by the involvement of 191 governments, representing 90% of the world’s population, he said.
He pointed out that the arrival of the vaccines in low-income countries came just 83 days after the first vaccine was administered in high-income countries, an improvement on what happened with the H1N1 pandemic when a small group of rich countries bought almost all stocks of the swine flu vaccine.
The situation is far from perfect and inequalities remain, but the world is more focused than ever on an egalitarian approach, he said, warning, however, that the world’s largest vaccine distribution operation is only just beginning.
The Gavi president warned that there is no way out of this pandemic without global access to vaccines.
Vaccines have the potential for a more powerful impact on the pandemic than any fiscal stimulus. The best economic policy today is vaccine policy, it is the way for economies to start working again,” he argued.
More than 30 speakers, including governments, policymakers, experts and representatives of European institutions, are participating in a virtual conference on strengthening the role of the European Union (EU) in global health.
The conference, taking place under the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU, will address topics such as “Global health in times of pandemic, EU-Africa strategic alliances, including access to vaccines, and promoting universal health coverage”.
Barroso was speaking on a panel that also included the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti.
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]