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'Vaccine Nationalism' Leaves World’s Poorest Nations Unable to Secure COVID-19 Vaccine, UN Chief Says

FILE - United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.
FILE - United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says “vaccine nationalism” is on the rise as wealthier nations line up to buy millions of doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines at the expense of much poorer nations.

During a virtual meeting Wednesday with African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, Guterres called for contributions of $4.2 billion over the next two months for the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX, the joint project between the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, an organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates to vaccinate children in the world’s poorest countries.

The head of the world body said fully funding COVAX is the only means to ensure any potential vaccines will be available for the African continent and other developing countries.

“If Africa is not properly supported, we will not be able to fight the pandemic anywhere effectively,” Guterres said.

The U.N. chief’s plea comes as several nations are preparing to follow in Britain’s footsteps in launching mass inoculation drives. A special committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected Thursday to grant emergency use authorization of the joint Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, with the first inoculations to begin early next week.

FILE - Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Dec. 7, 2020.
FILE - Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Dec. 7, 2020.

Canada approves vaccine

Canada’s national health agency, Health Canada, announced Wednesday it has approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, and Canadians will start receiving it as early as next week.

In a statement, Health Canada said that it completed a full independent review of the data on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, after receiving the company’s submission October 9. In its statement, the agency said, “Canadians can feel confident that the review process was rigorous and that we have strong monitoring systems in place.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive at 14 Canadian distribution centers next week, with more than 200,000 doses due before the end of the year.

Canada has ordered a total of 6 million doses from Pfizer. Canada becomes the third nation, after Britain and Bahrain, to approve the drug for use.

The push to approve and purchase the new vaccines comes as many nations are experiencing a mounting toll of new COVID-19 infections and fatalities on a daily basis. The United States, which leads the world with nearly 290,000 deaths out of more than 15.3 million total cases, set a grim milestone Wednesday with more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths, the highest single-day total in the nearly yearlong pandemic.

US sets new record

The U.S. has also averaged well over 200,000 new cases a day over the past seven days, another record-setting figure.

Japan’s health ministry posted 2,810 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, it’s highest one-day record since the start of the outbreak, including 555 people across the country diagnosed with serious coronavirus symptoms.

Germany’s national disease control and prevention agency, the Robert Koch Institute, posted 23,679 new coronavirus cases over a 24 hour period on Thursday, it’s highest one-day total. Thursday’s figure includes 440 deaths, one day after posting 590 fatalities, its highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day.

The worldwide coronavirus death toll remains at more than 1.5 million people out of more than 68.9 million total infections, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

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