UN chief pitches for making Covid-19 vaccine licenses available to India, Brazil for mass production

'Countries like India, Brazil will have a huge production for vaccines if licenses are made available to them,' he said
Last Updated 25 January 2021, 20:52 IST

Calling for international cooperation for massive vaccination to end COVID-19, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday licenses should be made available to countries like India and Brazil that have huge production capacities.

He also said every single person, including in poor countries, must be vaccinated to stop the spread of the deadly virus, while asserting that humanity is at war with nature and new mutations are making the virus deadlier that may require a new vaccine every year.

In a special address at the World Economic Forum's online Davos Agenda Summit, Guterres said if there is one word that sums up the world today, that is "fragility".

"We see the fragility in our relationship with the environment, with the COVID-19 pandemic and in geopolitics," he said while adding that humanity is at war with nature.

"We must address these fragilities and take the sustainable path, for which dialogue and collaboration are key," Guterres said.

The Secretary-General has spoken frequently about humanity's role in the destruction of the natural world, but also the part people can all play in restoring biodiversity and meeting the targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the summit, Guterres said, "Humanity has endured a year of tragedy and crisis we never want to repeat... More than two million people have died. We are in the worst economic crisis for nearly a century."

He also flagged inequalities between people and countries highlighted by the pandemic, saying women, in particular, are badly affected by job losses and extra burdens of care.

"We also see the fragility in the climate and biodiversity crisis. Both are getting worse. We are waging war on nature and destroying our life support system and nature is striking back," Guterres said.

He also referred to the world splitting in two with the two largest economies on earth leading two areas with different dominant currencies, trade and financial rules, each with its own interest and its own zero-sum geopolitical and military strategies.

"We must do everything possible to avert such a division. We need one global economy, with universal respect for international law, with strong multilateral institutions," Guterres said.

The UN chief also cautioned about a growing risk of nuclear and chemical proliferation and said, "We have reached a moment of truce in 2021, we must address this fragility and put the world on track."

He said scientists have produced rapid tests, treatments and vaccines against COVID-19 in a record time and the challenge now is to undertake the largest and most rapid deployment of vaccines the world has ever seen, reaching everybody, everywhere.

"This is in every country's self-interest. It is the fastest way to re-open the global economy. Supplies of vaccines are still scarce and distribution is uneven. Vaccines are quickly reaching high-income countries, while the world's poorest have none at all," he said.

Guterres said if developed countries think they will be safe, if they vaccinate their own people, while neglecting the developing world, they are wrong.

"There is now a clear, real danger of mutations making the virus more transmissible, more lethal and more resistant to existing vaccines. And we must act fast. Vaccine production, capacity around the world needs to be massively scaled up, licenses made available, and affordability must be ensured," he said.

He called for seeing vaccines as global public goods and people's vaccines.

The UN chief said most developed countries have bought more vaccines than what they will need and it will be important to put all those that will not be necessary to the disposal of developing countries.

"And then, we must make sure that we scale up production of vaccines. Licenses should be made available to the huge production capacity that exists, namely in several developing countries, countries like India, Brazil have a huge capacity of production of generics and will have a huge production for vaccines if licenses are made available to them," he added.

Guterres said such a strategy will provide vaccines in large quantity for the developed countries as well as the poorest areas of this world.

"If we do not act like this, if we believe it's possible to vaccinate the global north and forget about the global south, if we let the virus spread like wildfire in the global south, it will mutate. When it mutates, it will come back in a way that vaccines will no longer be relevant," he warned.

Guterres said that risk is very much there and it has been happening with flu.

"Every year we have to have a new vaccine on the flu, because in between the virus has mutated. Do we want to have the COVID in the same situation, having to have vaccinations every year and the COVID forever with us?

"We must stop COVID. And to stop COVID we must now have a massive vaccination north and south covering the whole population, as quickly as possible," he said.

(Published 25 January 2021, 20:52 IST)

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