The United Nations and its World Health Organisation launched an ambitious plan on Thursday to fully vaccinate 40 per cent of the global population against Covid-19 by the end of the year, and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the world was already producing enough vaccines to reach this target, but that donors needed to raise $8 billion to get jabs into arms across poorer regions.
The plan involves countries sharing or swapping vaccine doses equitably, transferring technology and other steps that will help poorer countries get hold of vaccines and roll them out to their populations.
“It is up to member states to come together and do what is needed for this strategy to succeed,” Mr Guterres said.
The UN chief urged the US, China and other members of the world’s wealthiest G20 nations to “deliver” cash when they meet at the end of the month in Rome, Italy, and “turn this strategy into reality”.
“The success of this plan requires equitable distribution,” said Mr Guterres.
“Without a coordinated, equitable approach, a reduction of cases in any one country will not be sustained over time. For everyone’s sake, we must urgently bring all countries to a high level of vaccination coverage.”
Globally, there have been more than 219 million cases of coronavirus and nearly 5 million people have died, with unvaccinated people particularly exposed to the virulent Delta strain.
The variant has exposed the wide disparities in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries, and the upshot of vaccine hesitancy in the United States and some other western nations.
The UN, the WHO and its COVAX distribution programme have focussed on getting vaccines to poorer nations, where many people are yet to receive a first dose, even as their richer counterparts have begun giving booster shots.
“Instead of global coordinated action to get vaccines where they are needed most, we have seen vaccine nationalism, vaccine hoarding and vaccine diplomacy,” warned Mr Guterres.
“We, of course, welcome efforts by countries to get vaccines to more places. But a plethora of global, regional and bilateral initiatives has failed to deliver.”