The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is working with more than 350 partners, including major airlines, shipping lines and logistics associations from around the world, to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to over 92 countries, as soon as doses become available, the agency said on Monday.
Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF Supply Division, highlighted the importance of the partnership to ensure capacity for the massive undertaking.
"As work continues to develop COVID-19 vaccines, UNICEF is stepping up efforts with airlines, freight operators, shipping lines and other logistics associations to deliver life-saving vaccines as quickly and safely as possible," she said.
"This invaluable collaboration will go a long way to ensure that enough transport capacity is in place for this historic and mammoth operation. We need all hands on deck as we get ready to deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses, syringes and more personal protective equipment to protect front line workers around the globe," the UNICEF official added.
To kick-start preparations, UNICEF along with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) briefed major global airlines last week on the expected capacity requirements and discussed ways to transport close to 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine doses next year. This is in addition to the 1 billion syringes that need to be transported by sea-freight.
In the coming weeks, UNICEF is also assessing existing transport capacity to identify gaps and future requirements, said the agency.
"The procurement, delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is anticipated to be the largest and fastest such operation ever undertaken," it added.
UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and deliver vaccines from manufacturers that have agreements with the COVAX Facility. In collaboration with PAHO, UNICEF will coordinate the purchase and delivery for 92 low- and lower middle-income economies as quickly and securely as possible.
The efforts build on UNICEF's longstanding efforts with the logistics industry to transport supplies around the world despite restrictions related to the pandemic. Since January, it has delivered over 190 million U.S. dollars worth of COVID-19 supplies such as masks, gowns, oxygen concentrators and diagnostic test kits to support countries as they respond to the pandemic.
As the largest single purchaser of vaccines in the world, UNICEF normally procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.
This unparalleled expertise includes the coordination of thousands of shipments with various cold chain requirements, making the UN agency an expert in supply chain management of temperature-controlled products, which is especially needed during this historic undertaking.
AstraZeneca said Monday that late stage trials of its COVID-19 vaccine developed with Oxford University were “highly effective” in preventing disease.
The results are based on interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine, AstraZeneca said.
“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives. Excitingly that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, the chief investigator for the trial.
The trial looked at two different dosing regimens — a half dose of the vaccine followed by a full dose at least one month apart was 90% effective. A second regimen using two full doses one month apart was 62% effective. The combined results showed an average efficacy rate of 70%.
“This vaccine’s efficacy and safety confirm that it will be highly effective against COVID-19 and will have an immediate impact on this public health emergency,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said. “Furthermore, the vaccine’s simple supply chain and our no-profit pledge and commitment to broad, equitable and timely access means it will be affordable and globally available, supplying hundreds of millions of doses on approval.”
Two other drugmakers, Pfizer and Moderna, last week reported preliminary results from late-stage trials showing that their COVID-19 vaccines were almost 95% effective.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday became the latest world leader to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory, saying she offered to share her nation’s expertise on dealing with the coronavirus.
Ardern said the tone of the 20-minute phone call was warm and that Biden spoke very favorably about how New Zealand was handling the pandemic.
“What has been really at the center of our response has been some fundamentals around testing, contact tracing, isolation,” Ardern said. “That’s over and above what we’ve done at our borders.”
New Zealand has been largely successful in eliminating the virus after imposing a strict lockdown in March and closing its borders. Only 25 people in the nation of 5 million have died from COVID-19.
Ardern said Biden wanted to pursue the discussion on New Zealand’s response further. But she cautioned that the nation’s model may not be able to be replicated everywhere.
“While New Zealand has a number of natural advantages that have assisted us in managing the virus, I do absolutely believe that international cooperation continues to be key to getting the virus under control,” Ardern said. “We are happy to work with any country to share our knowledge and data if its helpful.”
Ardern said she and Biden also discussed trade issues and climate change, and talked about the president-elect’s Irish heritage and his fond memories of visiting New Zealand a few years ago. She said she invited him to come visit again.
In a statement, Biden praised Ardern’s “extraordinary leadership” following a 2019 mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques, and as a working mother and role model.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said has said that the leadership of the Group of 20 (G20) is vital in the global struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Our greatest defense against COVID-19 is solidarity and cooperation," the UN chief was speaking on Sunday at a virtual summit of G20 leaders under the theme "Building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future," where he highlighted the importance of G20 leadership in the fight against the pandemic and the effort to build back better.
First of all, the secretary-general said that the G20 leadership is critical in "halting the further spread of the pandemic."
"Yesterday, I was encouraged by the broad recognition that vaccines - as well as tests and treatments - must be global public goods, available and affordable for all," he said, referring to the progress in the first-day meeting of the summit.
"But I want to repeat the call on G20 members to support the ACT-Accelerator and its COVAX facility. There is a financial gap of 28 billion U.S. dollars and we need 4.2 billion dollars of that immediately for mass manufacturing, procurement and distribution around the world," he said.
Secondly, the top UN official said, the leadership is also vital in mobilizing the resources to build forward better.
"There will be no different and better future without stronger action now to provide the necessary liquidity and tackle the debt emergency of the most vulnerable," he explained.
"It means strengthening the firepower of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and other international financial institutions in support of the developing world, including through a new issuance of Special Drawing Rights and the reallocation of unused SDRs," Guterres added.
It means broadening the eligibility of the G20 debt initiatives to all vulnerable developing countries, including the middle-income ones that need it, he said.
The UN chief believed that the third important role of the G20 leadership is aligning their recovery efforts with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
To build an inclusive, resilient and sustainable post-COVID world, public spending must be linked with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, said the secretary-general.
"We have a moral obligation to ensure that the trillions of dollars for COVID-19 recovery - money that we are borrowing from future generations - does not leave them burdened by a mountain of debt on a broken planet," he said.
"The recovery must help to reconcile humankind and nature on all fronts. From climate to biodiversity, from protecting the oceans to stopping deforestation and land degradation," he added.
Read Also: Coronavirus: Global cases hit 58.5 million
The globally confirmed coronavirus cases reached 58,095,887 on Sunday with 1,379,83 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
The US remains the worst-hit country with 12,088,409 cases, including 255,833 fatalities as of Sunday.
Brazil registered 376 new deaths from Covid-19, bringing the national death toll to 168,989, the government said Saturday. The number of infections went up by 32,622, pushing the nationwide tally to 6,052,786.
Neighbouring India's coronavirus tally reached 9,095,806 on Sunday as 45,209 new cases were registered in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said.
The country’s death toll mounted to 133,227 as 501 more patients died since Saturday morning.
India currently has 440,962 active cases, while 8,521,617 patients have been discharged from hospitals.
Also Read- Virus bears down on consumers and economy
The government is ramping up Covid-19 testing facilities across the country. Till Saturday, a total of 131,733,134 tests were conducted, out of which 1,075,326 tests were conducted on Saturday alone, said the figures released by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Covid vaccine Covaxin, which is being developed by India's biotechnology company "Bharat Biotech International Limited," entered the third phase of trial on Friday.
Bangladesh’s coronavirus situation
Bangladesh saw a rise in deaths from coronavirus infections as health authorities reported 28 more deaths in 24 hours until Saturday, taking the fatalities to 6,350 with a death rate of 1.43 percent.
During this period, 1,848 new cases were detected, bringing the caseload to 445,281.
So far, 360,352 patients – 80.93 percent – have recovered, including 1,921 in the last 24 hours.
Bangladesh reported its first cases on March 8. The infection number reached the 300,000-mark on August 26. The first death was reported on March 18 and the death toll crossed 6,000 on November 4