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US$1 billion more needed for COVAX COVID-19 vaccine rollout: UNICEF chief

US$1 billion more needed for COVAX COVID-19 vaccine rollout: UNICEF chief

FILE PHOTO: A health worker holds bottles of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine under the COVAX scheme against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi/File Photo

DUBAI: The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday (Mar 10) urged countries to contribute more money to help poor countries access coronavirus vaccines, saying around US$1 billion was needed.

UNICEF, the world's single largest vaccine buyer, is part of the World Health Organization-backed COVAX programme to supply COVID-19 shots to emerging economies.

"We have been asking the world for more funding ... for UNICEF and our distribution to countries we still need about US$1 billion," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said at Dubai's World Government Summit, held virtually this year.

That funding could be used to strengthen health systems in poorer nations and support the distribution of vaccines there, she said.

The COVAX initiative aims to deliver at least 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses this year, including 1.3 billion doses to lower-income countries. 

Fore urged vaccine makers to sign licensing agreements so vaccines could be made locally, singling out Africa as one market that needed it.

She also said it was unlikely the COVAX scheme would be able to cover the world this year.

"There is still more to do and we could do with more help and assistance."

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Source: Reuters

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