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ANALYSIS | Global vaccination gap fuels covid fears in UN General Assembly


Dozens of presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers are prepared to ignore a US suggestion to stay home and attend the UN General Assembly virtually and will converge on New York City in person this week.

Covid-19: these countries vaccinate those under 12 years old 1:08

(CNN) -

US fears that this week's annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations could trigger a super-spread event will highlight the stark inequality of global access to covid-19 vaccines, even as developed nations begin offering booster vaccines.

Dozens of presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers are prepared to ignore a US suggestion to stay home and attend the UN General Assembly (UNGA) virtually and will converge on New York City in person this week.

The possibility that visiting delegations may pose a threat to health will be an important reminder that while nations such as the United States and major European powers have gone ahead with vaccinating tens of millions of people, many smaller countries and The poor, lacking pharmaceutical industries, have not been able to insure or manufacture their own vaccines.

The World Health Organization said last week that more than 5.7 billion doses of vaccines have been administered worldwide, but 73% of those doses have been administered in just 10 countries.

That reality represents the biggest potential obstacle to ending the pandemic and preventing even more infectious strains of the coronavirus like the delta variant from developing resistance to existing vaccines.

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It will also underscore the world's failure so far to deliver a unified response to the worst public health crisis in 100 years, which will be at the center of countless speeches by world leaders in the next two weeks.


While the social side of the UN General Assembly event and bilateral meetings have been reduced, it is possible that an influx of visitors, many from countries subject to United States travel restrictions, could create the conditions to spread infections and promote global transmission. Although the UN headquarters property is designated as international territory, delegations will be staying in a city that now requires proof of vaccination to enter enclosed spaces such as restaurants and gyms. This could open a new front in Manhattan's sometimes delicate relationship with foreign envoys attested in past disputes over caravans, parking tickets and visits from American rivals, such as late Libyan leaders Muammar Muammar Gadhafi and Fidel Castro. , from Cuba,respectively.

"We are concerned that the UN event will be a super-spreading event," Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States' permanent representative to the UN, said Friday.

"We need to take every measure to make sure it doesn't become a super-spread event."

All travelers entering the US will be required to show negative COVID-19 testing.

But the fact that vaccines are so rare in much of the world raises the possibility that many delegations are left unprotected.

Thomas-Greenfield called on all countries to ensure that "their actions do not endanger the health and safety of the people of New York, of all the participants here at the United Nations, and that they do not bring the covid to their countries of origin".

  • These countries already vaccinate children under 12 against covid-19

Vaccine nationalism

Since this is the UN, high-stakes diplomatic duels have already broken out with some leaders and nations manipulating the politics of the pandemic on display at the UNGA to further political and nationalist goals at home.

Jair Bolsonaro, who as president of Brazil will fulfill the tradition of delivering the first speech at the meeting, already promises to circumvent the honor system of the world body that calls for all those who enter the UN chamber to be vaccinated.

"Why do you get vaccinated? To have antibodies, right? My antibody index is really high. I can show you the document," said Bolsonaro last week, who has constantly scoffed at public health guidelines and himself survived the covid-19.

Another antagonist of the United States, Russia, has also tried to put its finger on the wound. After his ambassador to the UN complained about the vaccination requirement, citing injustice to people with medical conditions or biases against vaccines - such as Russia's dose of Sputnik, which is not approved by the Centers for Control and Disease Prevention USA (CDC) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lashed out at Moscow.

"If the Russian ambassador is against, I am in favor. I have no words for Vladimir Putin and everything that has come out of Russia," de Blasio said. "If their vaccine is not good enough, then they should use one of the other vaccines. That is what we are making available." The city is offering the covid-19 vaccine at the UN headquarters for those who want it.

Given the current controversy over vaccination mandates in the US, Joe Biden might wish for a deviation from COVID-19 policy at the UNGA, where he will have his first chance as president to lay out his basic foreign policy principles in the chamber. of the UN before a global audience.

His decision to attend the event, after his administration suggested that other nations might allow him not to for health reasons, is itself a nod to the reality that after months of restrictions, many leaders are missing the opportunity. to strut on the world stage.


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Biden's attendance could also be overshadowed by other controversies. A speech that is expected to include claims that he restored America's alliances after the chaos of the Trump administration will take place amid a fierce dispute with America's oldest ally: France. Paris is incandescent that the United States and Britain sealed a strategic alliance with Australia behind its back, which led to the cancellation of its deal with Canberra to build diesel-powered submarines. And Biden's claims to have returned foreign policy expertise to the White House are being undermined by Afghanistan's chaotic pullout, which only looks worse after the US military admitted Friday that it mistakenly killed at least 10 civilians. Afghans, including children,What he initially insisted on was an attempt to prevent a suicide bomber from reaching Kabul airport.

The division over vaccines between the rich and the rest

The United States first suggested that world leaders "should consider" making their speeches virtually in a diplomatic note sent in August by Thomas-Greenfield.

He also said that the CDC recommended the mandatory use of masks at UN headquarters, proof of negative status for covid-19 to enter the building and, if possible, proof of vaccination.

"The United States must make clear our call, as the host country, that all meetings and side events organized by the UN, beyond the General Debate, be completely virtual," wrote Thomas-Greenfield. The ambassador plans to get tested for covid-19 on Monday in the test and vaccination van that the United States has installed outside the UN headquarters for delegations.

Seventy-two heads of state and 30 heads of government are expected to attend the UNGA in person, according to the latest list of UN attendees last week.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is working to coordinate the UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November will attend.

But French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Putin are not expected to travel to New York.

Neither will Iran's new president, Ebrahim Raisi, who is expected to deliver a virtual speech.

The politics of the pandemic is destined to dominate the speeches of world leaders in the coming weeks in the spacious General Assembly Hall.

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Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, noted last week that the United States purchased 500 million doses of Pfizer covid-19 vaccines to donate to countries "that need it most."

Biden is expected to use his speech to the UNGA on Tuesday to urge wealthier nations to do more to help less-favored countries vaccinate their populations.

The White House insists it is possible for the United States to offer booster doses to its people while still helping the rest of the world.

But the statistics related to world vaccines are a damning case.

According to CNN research, at least 217 countries and territories have administered more than 5 billion doses of a covid-19 vaccine.

While the wealthiest nations, many in the Northern Hemisphere, have made great strides in vaccinating their populations, even in places like the United States where there is significant political resistance to vaccines, much of the world is still defenseless against the virus. .

While states such as Israel, Singapore and Portugal have administered more than 150 doses per 100 people, countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Cameroon have administered less than 5 doses per 100 people.

This huge disparity worries UN Secretary General António Guterres.

"The international community was unable to unite in relation to the cause," Guterres said in an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria broadcast on "GPS" on Sunday.

"We have this absolutely unacceptable situation, in which a country like mine that was very successful has 80% of the population vaccinated," said Guterres, who is Portuguese.

"We have countries in Africa with less than 2%."


    My uncle died of COVID-19 before he could get a vaccine in Kenya, and I got mine from a pharmacy in the US This is what the inequality of vaccines looks like

The issue of access to vaccines for developing countries will be especially acute this week, as nations such as the United States have begun to make progress on administering booster shots for people who are already fully vaccinated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted on Friday to recommend the emergency use authorization of Pfizer's booster vaccine six months after full vaccination in Americans 65 and older, as well as in people at high risk for severe covid-19, but not the general population of people 16 years and older.

The delicate path that Biden must travel in vaccine policy is just one example of the trials he will face when he makes his presidential debut in what will be a highly unusual UNGA.

CNN's Caitlin Hu and Richard Roth contributed to this story.

ONUCovid-19 General Assembly

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2021-09-20

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