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WHO: 1B Vaccines Sent to Poorer Nations01/16 10:12


   BERLIN (AP) -- The World Health Organization said Sunday that a U.N.-backed 
program shipping coronavirus vaccines to many poor countries has now delivered 
1 billion doses, but that milestone "is only a reminder of the work that 
remains" after hoarding and stockpiling in rich countries.

   A shipment of 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Rwanda on Saturday 
included the billionth dose supplied via the COVAX program, the U.N. health 
agency said.

   WHO has long criticized unequal distribution of vaccines and called for 
manufacturers and other countries to prioritize COVAX. It said that, as of 
Thursday, 36 of its 194 member countries had vaccinated less than 10% of their 
population and 88 had vaccinated less than 40%.

   The program has made deliveries to 144 countries so far, "but the work that 
has gone into this milestone is only a reminder of the work that remains," WHO 
said in a statement.

   "COVAX's ambition was compromised by hoarding/stockpiling in rich countries, 
catastrophic outbreaks leading to borders and supply being locked," it added. 
"And a lack of sharing of licenses, technology and know-how by pharmaceutical 
companies meant manufacturing capacity went unused."

   At the end of December, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus 
urged everyone to make a "new year's resolution" to get behind a campaign to 
vaccinate 70% of countries' populations by the beginning of July.

   In a newspaper interview published Sunday, Germany's new international 
development minister said she wants to use her country's presidency this year 
of the Group of Seven industrial nations to ensure that COVAX gets the 
resources it needs in 2022.

   "Unfortunately, there are still too few countries participating in the 
financing of the global vaccination campaign," Svenja Schulze was quoted as 
telling the Funke newspaper group. "Alongside Sweden, Norway, Canada and the 
U.S., we are the ones who are giving most. The other industrial countries have 
significant ground to catch up."

   Germany has said it donated 103 million doses to poorer countries last year 
and plans to donate another 75 million in 2022.

   Schulze signaled that she wants to expand help for developing countries to 
produce vaccines themselves, with partnerships between companies to produce 
vaccines under license a favored aim.

   Asked whether it would make sense to waive patents on COVID-19 patents, 
which Germany's previous government opposed, she replied: "I doubt that 
developing countries would get vaccines more easily if we waive the patents." 
The issue is only a small part of the production process, she argued.

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