The head of the World Trade Organization predicted a “bumpy and rocky" road as it opened its highest-level meeting in 4-1/2 years on Sunday, with issues like pandemic preparedness, food insecurity and overfishing of the world’s seas on the agenda. At a time when some question WTO's relevance, Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala hopes the meeting involving more than 120 ministers from the group's 164 member countries yields progress toward reducing inequality and ensuring fair and free trade. Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the Geneva-based trade body needs reform but said she was cautiously optimistic that a deal might be reached on at least one of the meeting’s main ambitions like fisheries or COVID vaccines. Also read: FDA restricts J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine due to blood clot risk “The road will be bumpy and rocky. There may be a few landmines on the way,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “We’ll have to navigate those landmines and see how we can successfully land one or two deliverables.” In her opening address, she said a “trust deficit” had emerged over the years following the failure of negotiations known as the Doha Round more than a decade ago. “The negativism is compounded by the negative advocacy of some think tanks and civil society groups here in Geneva and elsewhere who believe the WTO is not working for people," she said. "This is, of course, not true, although we’ve not been able to clearly demonstrate it.” She cited an array of crises facing the world such as the COVID-19 pandemic; environmental crises like droughts, floods and heat waves; and inflationary pressures that have been compounded by food shortages and higher fuel costs linked to Russia's war in Ukraine. She noted higher prices are“hitting poor people the hardest.” “With history looming over us, with that multilateral system seemingly fragile, this is the time to invest in it, not to retreat from it,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “This is the time to summon the much-needed political will to show that the WTO can be part of the solution to the multiple crises, the global commons that we face.” The WTO chief insisted that trade has lifted 1 billion people out of poverty, but poorer countries – and poor people in richer ones – are often left behind. Blockaded ports in Ukraine have impeded exports of up to 25 million tons of grain from the key European breadbasket. Ministers at the meeting will consider whether to lift or ease export restrictions on food to help countries facing a shortage of wheat, fertilizer and other products because of the war in Ukraine. They also will decide whether to increase support for the U.N.’s World Food Program to help needy countries around the world. “I strongly urge the WTO members with the capabilities to commit at MC12 to exempt their donations to the World Food Program from any export restrictions,” said Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, referring to the 12th ministerial conference at the WTO. Okonjo-Iweala hopes the member nations, which make decisions by consensus, also can strike an agreement about whether to temporarily waive WTO’s protections of intellectual property on COVID-19 vaccines. Also read: Yunus for creating social business pharm companies to bring vaccines, medicines to common people The topic has generated months of contentious negotiations. The pharmaceutical industry wants to protect its innovations while advocacy groups say the pandemic's devastation merits an exemption to the usual rules and developing countries say they need better access to vaccines. Some experts and diplomats say two decades of WTO efforts to limit overfishing in the world's seas appears to be as close as it ever has to reaching a deal. The draft text on fisheries aims to limit government subsidies — such as for fuel — to fishing boats or workers who take part in “illegal, unreported and unreported” fishing, or national subsidies that contribute to “overcapacity or overfishing.” Some workers in developing countries could qualify for exemptions. “This agreement is crucial to the 260 million people around the world whose livelihoods depend directly or indirectly on marine fisheries,” Okonjo-Iweala said. “It is also central to the sustainability of our oceans, where the latest studies show close to 50% of stocks for which we have data are overfished.” An umbrella group of nongovernmental groups, “Our World Is Not For Sale,” said over 50 NGOs were stripped of access that they had been previously granted to attend the opening day events. WTO spokesman Daniel Pruzin said that because of “space limitations” at WTO and events inside, “we were unfortunately unable to grant accredited NGOs access, both civil society groups as well as business groups.” He said they would be granted access for the rest of the ministerial starting Monday. The World Trade Organization, created in 1995 as a successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, has seen a slow unraveling — often because U.S. objections have largely hamstrung its dispute-resolution system. The WTO hasn’t produced a major trade deal in years. The last one, reached nearly a decade ago, was an agreement that cut red tape on goods clearing borders and was billed as a boost to lower-income countries.
For the first time, people across the U.S. can log on to a government website and order free, at-home COVID-19 tests. But the White House push may do little to ease the omicron surge, and experts say Washington will have to do a lot more to fix the country’s long-troubled testing system. The website, COVIDTests.gov, allows people to order four at-home tests per household, regardless of citizenship status, and have them delivered by mail. But the tests won’t arrive for seven to 12 days, after omicron cases are expected to peak in many parts of the country. The White House also announced Wednesday that it will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers. Both initiatives represent the kind of mass government investments long seen in parts of Europe and Asia, but delayed in the U.S. Read:COVID deaths and cases are rising again at US nursing homes “Should we have done more testing earlier? Yes, but we’re doing more now," President Joe Biden said Wednesday, recapping his first year in office. Experts say the plan to distribute 1 billion tests is a good first step, but it must become a regular part of the pandemic response. In the same way that it has made vaccines free and plentiful, the government must use its purchasing power to assure a steady test supply, they say. “The playbook for rapid tests should look exactly like the playbook for vaccines,” said Zoe McLaren, a health economist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “They’re both things that help keep cases down and help keep COVID under control.” A home test two-pack commonly sells for more than $20 at the store — if you can find one, amid the omicron-triggered rush to get tested. Since last week, insurance companies have been required to cover the cost of up to eight at-home rapid tests bought at drugstores or online retailers. The four tests per home made available through the government website may not go very far in some households. Kristen Keymont, 30, is a voice and piano teacher who teaches online and shares a house in Ipswich, Massachusetts, with her partner and two other people. When one of her housemates tested positive just before Christmas, she and her partner spent $275 buying more than a dozen tests. “One test each is nice, I guess,” she said. “I’m glad we have them, but we’re still going to need to buy more if one of us gets exposed.” It would be better, she said, if requests were linked to each person rather than each residential address. Also, some people who live in buildings with multiple units had their requests for tests rejected, with the website saying tests had already been ordered for that address. As those complaints surfaced on social media, people began sharing advice on how to enter apartment or unit numbers in a way that the website would accept them. There have been nearly 50 million visits to the test-ordering website since it went online Tuesday, according to a federal analytics site. The U.S. bungled its initial rollout of government-made COVID-19 tests in the early days of the outbreak and has never really gotten back on track. While private companies are now producing more than 250 million at-home tests per month, that is still not enough to allow most Americans to frequently test themselves. The Biden administration focused most of its early COVID-19 efforts on rolling out vaccines. As infections fell last spring, demand for testing plummeted and many manufacturers began shutting down plants. Only in September — after the delta surge was in full swing — did the Biden administration announce its first federal contracts designed to jump-start home test production. Countries like Britain and Germany purchased and distributed billions of the tests soon after they became available last year. “If you leave the manufacturers to their own devices, they’re just going to respond to what’s happening right now,” said Dr. Amy Karger, a testing specialist at the University of Minnesota Medical School. “And then there’s not a lot of bandwidth if something surprising happens, as it did with omicron.” Even with government intervention, the U.S. faces a massive testing load because of its population, which is five times larger than Britain's. The U.S. would need 2.3 billion tests per month for all teens and adults to test themselves twice per week. That’s more than double the number of at-home tests the administration plans to distribute over several months. Dr. David Michaels, a former member of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, said the administration will probably need to request more federal money to fund testing for years to come. “Congress was willing to put trillions of dollars into infrastructure primarily to improve transportation. This is infrastructure,” said Michaels, a public health professor at George Washington University. “We need billions more in testing to save lives and maintain the economy.” For now, testing will probably continue to be strained. And even the most bullish proponents say the U.S. will have to carefully weigh where home tests can have the greatest benefit — for instance, by dispensing them to those most vulnerable to the virus. Read:Biden says nation weary from COVID but rising with him in WH “The fact is we just don’t have that kind of mass testing capacity in the U.S.” said Dr. Michael Mina, chief science officer for home testing service eMed, who once called for using billions of tests per month to crush the pandemic. “We should now be thinking about how to use these tests in a strategic way. We don’t want to just dilute them out across the population.” Mina was until recently a professor at Harvard and has informally advised federal officials on testing. Mina and others acknowledge widespread use of rapid tests is not without its downsides. Results from at-home tests are seldom reported to health authorities, giving an imperfect picture of the spread and size of the pandemic. More than 2 million test results a day are being reported to U.S. health officials, but nearly all of them come from laboratory-processed tests. Some researchers estimate the real number of daily tests is roughly 5 million, when accounting for at-home ones.
The students, aged above 12 or above, must receive at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine to attend schools and colleges, said Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam on Thursday. “The Ministry of Education has already given instructions that no one can come to schools without getting vaccinated. The issue was discussed at an inter-ministerial meeting on January 3 and it was confirmed today,” he said while briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chaired the virtual cabinet meeting, joining it from her official residence Ganobhaban, while others concerned got connected from the Bangladesh Secretariat. Replying to a question over the explanation of that decision, the cabinet secretary said the students, aged above 12, will have to receive at least one jab of the Covid-19 inoculation to attend schools and colleges. Also read: Covid vaccine: Fakirhat becomes first upazila to jab 100% of eligible population
Health Secretary Md Lokman Hossain Miah on Friday visited Faridpur General Hospital to see the services provided to the patients. During the visit he told doctors, nurses and other staff to deliver their services effectively so no patient goes without treatment. Patients should not suffer due to damaged equipment and lack of supplies, he said. Read: Current booster effective against Omicron: Health Minister Regarding the Covid vaccine, he said there is no shortage of vaccines. “But we are concerned that many people have not been vaccinated yet.” Deputy Commissioner of Faridpur Atul Sarkar, Civil Surgeon Dr Siddiqur Rahman, Director of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical College and Hospital Dr Saifur Rahman and Additional Deputy Commissioner Deepak Roy were present among others.
Bangladesh has taken all precautions against new coronavirus variant, Omicron, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said on Sunday ruling out any further Covid-induced lockdown in the country “The Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh is under control now and there is no possibility to enforce any lockdown in the country,” he told reporters after visiting the under-construction Bangladesh Institute of Health Management Building (BIHM) in Savar. He said the government is keeping eye on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) decisions on the Omicron variant but above all the precautions and preparations people will need to follow the health protocols, he said. He, however, said that the government does not see any need for sealing the land border of the country as yet. Read:Don’t leave your workplaces: Health Minister to expats “Already letters have been sent to all the districts to take up preparations to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, “he said. Zahid said there is no need to worry about the new coronavirus variant Omicron which has no presence in the country. “Any one coming from South Africa or other Omicron-affected countries will need to possess negative certificate from tests 48 hours before the flight and will need to stay in mandatory quarantine for 14 days, “he said. Screening at airports has been increased and the Covid-19 testing labs have been expanded up to 30,000 square feet from 2,000, he said. He said Bangladesh has now enough stock of vaccines and preparation to face any situation. “Already more than seven crore people have received the first dose while around four crore have been fully vaccinated,” he said. “Like many other countries, we got the prime minister’s nod to administer the booster dose of Covid-19 vaccines, and soon it will be provided to the above-60 citizens,” he said. We are keeping eye on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) decisions on the Omicron variant but above all the precautions and preparations people will need to be more health aware, said the health minister
Cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus popped up in countries on opposite sides of the world Sunday and many governments rushed to close their borders even as scientists cautioned that it's not clear if the new variant is more alarming than other versions of the virus. The variant was identified days ago by researchers in South Africa, and much is still not known about it, including whether it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines. But many countries rushed to act, reflecting anxiety about anything that could prolong the pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people. Israel decided to bar entry to foreigners, and Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday — among the most drastic of a growing raft of travel curbs being imposed by nations around the world as they scrambled to slow the variant's spread. Scientists in several places — from Hong Kong to Europe to North America — have confirmed its presence. The Netherlands reported 13 omicron cases on Sunday, and both Canada and Australia each found two. Noting that the variant has already been detected in many countries and that closing borders often has limited effect, the World Health Organization called for frontiers to remain open. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, meanwhile, emphasized that there is no data yet that suggests the new variant causes more serious illness than previous COVID-19 variants. Read:In omicron hot spot, somber mood as S Africa faces variant "I do think it’s more contagious when you look at how rapidly it spread through multiple districts in South Africa. It has the earmarks therefore of being particularly likely to spread from one person to another. … What we don’t know is whether it can compete with delta,” Collins said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Collins echoed several experts in saying the news should make everyone redouble their efforts to use the tools the world already has, including vaccinations, booster shots and measures such as mask-wearing. “I know, America, you’re really tired about hearing those things, but the virus is not tired of us,” Collins said. The Dutch public health authority confirmed that 13 people who arrived from South Africa on Friday have so far tested positive for omicron. They were among 61 people who tested positive for the virus after arriving on the last two flights to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport before a flight ban was implemented. They were immediately put into isolation, most at a nearby hotel. Canada’s health minister says the country's first two cases of omicron were found in Ontario after two individuals who had recently traveled from Nigeria tested positive. Authorities in Australia said two travelers who arrived in Sydney from Africa became the first in the country to test positive for the new variant. Arrivals from nine African countries are now required to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival. Two German states reported a total of three cases in returning travelers over the weekend. Israel moved to ban entry by foreigners and mandate quarantine for all Israelis arriving from abroad. And Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Monday that Japan is considering stepping up border controls. Kishida told reporters that he planned to announce new measures in addition to the current 10-day quarantine requirement for travelers from South Africa and eight other nearby countries. Japan still has its border closed to foreign tourists from any country. Morocco's Foreign Ministry tweeted Sunday that all incoming air travel to the North African country would be suspended to “preserve the achievements realized by Morocco in the fight against the pandemic, and to protect the health of citizens.” Morocco has been at the forefront of vaccinations in Africa, and kept its borders closed for months in 2020 because of the pandemic. The U.S. plans to ban travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries starting Monday. “It’s going to give us a period of time to enhance our preparedness,” the United States’ top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said of the ban on ABC’s “This Week.” Many countries are introducing such bans, though they go against the advice of the WHO, which has warned against any overreaction before the variant is thoroughly studied. Fauci says it will take approximately two more weeks to have more definitive information on the transmissibility, severity and other characteristics of omicron, according to a statement from the White House. South Africa's government responded angrily to the travel bans, which it said are “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.” Read:Dutch, Australians find omicron variant: others halt flights The WHO sent out a statement saying it “stands with African nations” and noting that travel restrictions may play “a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods." It said if restrictions are put in place, they should be scientifically based and not intrusive. In Europe, much of which already has been struggling recently with a sharp increase in cases, officials were on guard. The U.K. on Saturday tightened rules on mask-wearing and on testing of international arrivals after finding two omicron cases, but British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government was nowhere near reinstituting work from home or more severe social-distancing measures. “We know now those types of measures do carry a very heavy price, both economically, socially, in terms of non-COVID health outcomes such as impact on mental health,” he told Sky News. Spain announced it won't admit unvaccinated British visitors starting Dec. 1. Italy was going through lists of airline passengers who arrived in the past two weeks. France is continuing to push vaccinations and booster shots. David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert and government adviser on the pandemic in Hong Kong, agreed with that strategy. He said the two people who tested positive for the omicron variant had received the Pfizer vaccine and exhibited very mild symptoms, such as a sore throat. “Vaccines should work but there would be some reduction in effectiveness,” he said.
More than 4.62 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide as the biggest vaccination campaign in history is underway, according to Our World in Data, a tracking website affiliated with Oxford University. Data on the website shows that China, where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019, leads the global count with over 1.83 billion shots. India comes second with more than 523.67 million jabs, followed by the US with around 353.86 million. READ: Cumilla councillor gives Covid shots, sparks row Brazil has administered over 160.06 million shots, while the figure stands at 108.18 million in Japan. Meanwhile, Germany has administered over 96.85 million shots, followed by the UK with 87.18 million doses. France and Indonesia have given more than 79.29 million and 79.05 million vaccine jabs, followed by Mexico, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Canada. So far, Bangladesh has administered at least 20,889,928 doses of Covid vaccines – enough to have vaccinated around 6.3% of the country's population, assuming every person needs two doses. Most vaccines are given in two doses, and some countries such as Turkey are also administering third booster shots. The number of Covid-19 cases around the world now stands at almost 207 million, including nearly 4.36 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Getting vaccinated prevents severe illness, hospitalisations, and death; and with the Delta variant; this is more urgent than ever, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. READ: Brazil city offers COVID shots to all 18-60 as part of test However, at the current pace of 38.2 million doses a day, the goal of high levels of global immunity remains a long way off as countries and regions with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated more than 20 times faster than those with the lowest, according to Bloomberg.
An international system to share coronavirus vaccines was supposed to guarantee that low and middle-income countries could get doses without being last in line and at the mercy of unreliable donations. It hasn’t worked out that way. In late June alone, the initiative known as COVAX sent some 530,000 doses to Britain – more than double the amount sent that month to the entire continent of Africa. Under COVAX, countries were supposed to give money so vaccines could be set aside, both as donations to poor countries and as an insurance policy for richer ones to buy doses if theirs fell through. Some rich countries, including those in the European Union, calculated that they had more than enough doses available through bilateral deals and ceded their allocated COVAX doses to poorer countries. But others, including Britain, tapped into the meager supply of COVAX doses themselves, despite being among the countries that had reserved most of the world’s available vaccines. In the meantime, billions of people in poor countries have yet to receive a single dose. The result is that poorer countries have landed in exactly the predicament COVAX was supposed to avoid: dependent on the whims and politics of rich countries for donations, just as they have been so often in the past. And in many cases, rich countries don’t want to donate in significant amounts before they finish vaccinating all their citizens who could possibly want a dose, a process that is still playing out. “If we had tried to withhold vaccines from parts of the world, could we have made it any worse than it is today?” asked Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor at the World Health Organization, during a public session on vaccine equity. Other wealthy nations that recently received paid doses through COVAX include Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, all of which have relatively high immunization rates and other means of acquiring vaccines. Qatar has promised to donate 1.4 million doses of vaccines and already shipped out more than the 74,000 doses it received from COVAX. The U.S. never got any doses through COVAX, although Canada, Australia and New Zealand did. Canada got so much criticism for taking COVAX shipments that it said it would not request additional ones. In the meantime, Venezuela has yet to receive any of its doses allocated by COVAX. Haiti has received less than half of what it was allocated, Syria about a 10th. In some cases, officials say, doses weren’t sent because countries didn’t have a plan to distribute them. Also read: The link between the COVID-19 vaccine and pregnancy British officials confirmed the U.K. received about 539,000 vaccine doses in late June and that it has options to buy another 27 million shots through COVAX. “The government is a strong champion of COVAX,” the U.K. said, describing the initiative as a mechanism for all countries to obtain vaccines, not just those in need of donations. It declined to explain why it chose to receive those doses despite private deals that have reserved eight injections for every U.K. resident. Brook Baker, a Northeastern University law professor who specializes in access to medicines, said it was unconscionable that rich countries would dip into COVAX vaccine supplies when more than 90 developing countries had virtually no access. COVAX’s biggest supplier, the Serum Institute of India, stopped sharing vaccines in April to deal with a surge of cases on the subcontinent. Although the number of vaccines being bought by rich countries like Britain through COVAX is relatively small, the extremely limited global supply means those purchases result in fewer shots for poor countries. So far, the initiative has delivered less than 10% of the doses it promised. COVAX is run by the World Health Organization, the vaccine alliance Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a group launched in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop outbreaks. The program is now trying to regain credibility by getting rich countries to distribute their donated vaccines through its own system, Baker said. But even this effort is not entirely successful because some countries are making their own deals to curry favorable publicity and political clout. “Rich countries are trying to garner geopolitical benefits from bilateral dose-sharing,” Baker noted. So far, with the exception of China, donations are coming in tiny fractions of what was pledged, an Associated Press tally of vaccines promised and delivered has found. Dr. Christian Happi, an infectious diseases expert at Nigeria’s Redeemer’s University, said donations from rich countries are both insufficient and unreliable, especially as they have not only taken most of the world’s supplies but are moving on to vaccinate children and considering administering booster shots. Happi called on Africa, where 1.5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, to increase its own vaccine manufacturing rather than rely on COVAX. “We cannot just wait for them to come up with a solution,” he said. COVAX is well aware of the problem. During its last board meeting in late June, health officials conceded they had failed to achieve equitable distribution. But they still decided against blocking donor countries from buying up supplies themselves. At a subsequent meeting with partners, Gavi CEO Dr. Seth Berkley said COVAX intended to honor the agreements it had made with rich countries but would ask them in the future to “adjust” their allocated doses to request fewer vaccines, according to a meeting participant who spoke about the confidential call on condition of anonymity. Among the reasons Berkley cited for Gavi’s reluctance to break or renegotiate contracts signed with rich countries was the potential risk to its balance sheet. In the last year, Britain alone has given more than $860 million to COVAX. Meeting notes from June show that Gavi revised COVAX’s initial plan to split vaccines evenly between rich and poor countries and proposed that poor countries would receive about 75% of COVID-19 doses in the future. Without rich countries’ involvement in COVAX, Gavi said “it would be difficult to secure deals with some manufacturers.” Also read: Moderna says vaccine 93% effective but seeks 3rd-shot in fall In response to an AP request for comment, Gavi said the initiative is aiming to deliver more than 2 billion doses by the beginning of 2022 and described COVAX as “an unprecedented global effort.” “The vast majority of the COVAX supply will go to low- and middle-income countries,” Gavi said in an email about its latest supply forecast. For many countries, it said, “COVAX is the main, if not the only source of COVID-19 vaccine supply.” Spain’s donation to four countries in Latin America – its first via COVAX – reflects how even rich countries with a lot of vaccines are donating a minimum. Spain, which has injected 57 million doses into its own residents, shipped 654,000 the first week in August. The delivery totals 3% of the 22.5 million doses Spain has promised, eventually, to COVAX. Gavi said COVAX now has enough money and pledged donations to one day cover 30% of the population of the world’s poorest countries. But it has made big promises before. In January, COVAX said it had “secured volumes” totaling 640 million doses to deliver by July 2021, all of them under signed agreements, not donations. But by last month, COVAX had only shipped 210 million doses, 40% of which were donated. With COVAX sidelined, vaccine donations have become something of a political contest. China has already exported 770 million doses and last week announced its own goal of sending 2 billion doses to the rest of the world by the end of the year — exactly the same amount as COVAX’s initial plan. That’s far ahead of the rest of the world, according to the AP tally of doses. Britain has delivered just 4.7 million, far short of the 30 million pledged, and the European Union has given 7.1 million and and another 55 million through COVAX contracts. “If the donors are not stepping forward, the people who continue to die are our people,” Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union special envoy on COVID-19 vaccine procurement, said. The United States has so far delivered 111 million doses, less than half of what was promised. Several U.S. lawmakers from both parties argued Wednesday that the government should seize the opportunity for diplomacy by more aggressively seeking credit for the doses it ships overseas. “I think we should make vaccines available throughout the Middle East, but I also think we should have the American flag on every vial,” said Rep. Juan Vargas, a Democrat from California, at a hearing on the state of the pandemic in the Middle East. Even the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, recently decried Europe’s lagging in donations in geopolitical terms as a loss to China. U.S. President Joe Biden, in announcing the U.S. donations that have finally come through, similarly described the doses as a way to counter “Russia and China influencing the world with vaccines.” The White House said the United States has donated more than 110 million vaccine doses, some via COVAX. In addition to its planned vaccine exports, China announced plans to donate $100 million to COVAX to buy more doses for developing countries. “The key to strengthening vaccine cooperation and building the Great Wall of immunization is to ensure equitable access,” said Wang Xiaolong of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, speaking Friday after China hosted an online forum on fair vaccine distribution. The COVAX board has agreed to go back to its basic assumptions about vaccinating the world before the end of the year. High on its list: “An updated definition of fair and equitable access.”
The U.S. has donated and shipped more than 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Zambia, the White House announced Tuesday. President Joe Biden was expected to discuss that milestone and more later Tuesday in remarks updating the public on the U.S. strategy to slow the spread of coronavirus abroad. The announcement comes amid a rise in infections in the U.S., fueled by the highly contagious delta strain of the virus, which led U.S. public health officials last week to recommend that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 resume wearing face coverings in some public indoor settings. But while notable, the 110 million doses the U.S. has donated largely through a global vaccine program known as COVAX represent a fraction of what is needed worldwide. The White House said in a statement Tuesday that U.S. at the end of August will begin shipping 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine that it has pledged to 100 low-income countries by June 2022. The 110 million donated doses came from U.S. surplus vaccine stock as the pace of domestic vaccinations slowed amid widespread vaccine hesitancy in the country. READ: US says airstrike in Somalia kills an al-Shabab leader Biden has promised that the U.S. will be the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world, and it has shipped the most vaccines abroad of any donor nation. Roughly 90 million eligible Americans aged 12 and over have yet to receive one dose of vaccine. Biden had pledged to ship more than 80 million doses overseas by the end of June, but had only been able to share a fraction of that due to logistical and regulatory hurdles in recipient countries. The pace of shipments picked up significantly through July. Under Biden’s sharing plan, about 75% of U.S. doses are shared through COVAX, which aims to help lower- and middle-income nations, with the balance being sent to U.S. partners and allies. READ: US says it's ready to help North Korea combat virus The White House insists that nothing is being sought in return for the shots, contrasting its approach to Russia and China, which it alleges have used access to their domestically produced vaccines as a tool of geopolitical leverage.
BNP on Monday called upon the government to procure Covid vaccines on an emergency basis by diverting money allocated for mega projects as the pandemic has turned critical in the country. “Our specific proposal is to identify the corona crisis as the number one problem at the national level and buy vaccines on an emergency basis by diverting required money from other sectors, especially from the money allocated for mega projects,” said party standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain. Speaking at a virtual press conference, he also said it is necessary to procure vaccines from different sources, including pharmaceutical companies, across the world. “We must take steps to collect crores of jabs immediately and then it will be possible to contain the virus in four-six months.” Also read: Lockdown just ‘eyewash’, says BNP Mosharraf, also a former health minister, said it is the responsibility of the government to buy vaccines and protect people from deadly virus infections and fatalities. “If they fail to do so, they must step down shouldering the responsibility for their failures.” He said their party is deeply worried over the current corona situation. “We condemn the government’s failure to tackle the corona situation.” The BNP leader demanded the government made public its plans to deal with corona and the roadmap for the collection of vaccines and their proper distributions. “BNP believes that the only way to control the situation is vaccination of 70-80 percent of the country's population as soon as possible. The government must take immediate steps to procure adequate vaccines and inform people about its roadmap on it.” He alleged that people are dying and getting infected with the virus alarmingly due to the government’s negligence, corruption and failures to control the situation. “We do not see any sign of improvement in the situation until most people are vaccinated.” Also read: Vaccines start arriving in fulfilment of prime minister’s commitment, says Quader Mosharraf also urged the country’s people to wear masks and maintain the health safety rules to keep them protected from the virus. He said the virus situation has come under control in the countries where 70/-80 percent of the population has been vaccinated. “But only 2.5 percent or 42, 81,776 have so far received two doses of vaccines in Bangladesh till June 27 due to the government’s utter diplomatic failure, irregularities in the purchase of vaccines and its waywardness.” BNP vice-chairman DR AZM Zahid Hossain, party chairperson’s adviser Dr Farhad Halim Donar, Doctors Association of Bangladesh’s president Prof Harun Al Rashid, secretary general Dr Abdus Salam and BNP’s health affairs secretary Rafiqul Islam also spoke at the press conference. Also read: Ensure treatment of Covid patients: BNP