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After US Promise of Doses, Inequity Concerns Remain

Some poor nations, already behind on vaccinations, may not be equipped to handle Pfizer doses
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 10, 2021 6:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – US plans to donate 500 million more COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries were met Thursday with both celebration and hesitation amid questions over whether the effort will be enough to help poor regions desperate for doses. Some health officials and experts expressed hope that the pledge would encourage more donations to ease the inequities in vaccine supplies that have become pronounced in recent months, the AP reports. Other observers stressed that the doses need to roll out quickly. "Saving lives requires shots in arms now. Not at the end of 2021, not in 2022, but now," said Kate Elder, senior vaccines policy adviser to Doctors Without Borders. Hours after President Biden's administration committed to the donation, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the Group of Seven nations will share at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with the world, with half coming from the US and 100 million from the UK. The announcement on the eve of the G-7 summit previewed a coordinated effort by advanced economies to make vaccination available everywhere.

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Inoculation campaigns in several richer countries have surged ahead while efforts have barely begun in many poorer nations. The surge in cases in India offers a searing reminder of how COVID-19 can devastate entire countries when vaccines are scarce. The pandemic is not over, said the head of vaccines advocacy for UNICEF, though it may seem like it in countries where many are vaccinated. "But in other parts of the world, the virus is still absolutely raging out of control," said Lily Caprani. The Biden administration’s decision to donate Pfizer vaccines raised doubts about whether the doses would reach the poorest of the poor because those doses need to be stored in ultra-cold conditions. Many low-income countries with limited infrastructure will probably be unable to take them to the most remote areas. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would advise its countries to use the Pfizer shots in cities. Still, the administration's promise was "clearly a cause for celebration," said Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, adding, "It's going to be a big help."

(Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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