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News in Brief 6 May 2021

News in Brief 6 May 2021

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Coronavirus vaccine patent waiver in US hailed by UN’s Guterres

UN chief António Guterres has hailed the United States administration’s commitment to waive COVID-19 vaccine patent protections.

In a statement on Thursday, the UN Secretary-General said that the development would enable vaccine producers to share their know-how and technology, helping to expand locally-produced vaccines and significantly increase the supply to the UN-partnered equitable vaccine sharing scheme, COVAX.

Mr. Guterres also insisted that further action was needed to ensure that countries had sufficient materials to produce COVID-19 vaccines, his comments coming after the United States said that it supported lifting intellectual property rights protections, to address the “extraordinary” circumstances of the pandemic.

In a statement on Wednesday, US Trade Representative Katharine Tai said that the Biden administration would “actively participate” in ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) “to make this happen”.

COVID-19 vaccine shortages must be countered with effective use: WHO

To Africa now, and a warning from the UN health agency that COVID-19 vaccine delivery delays could cause a third wave of infections.

The continent should make the most of the relatively few coronavirus jabs it has, urged Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.

She appealed for vaccine equity for Africa, which accounts for only one per cent of all vaccines administered worldwide, down from two per cent a few weeks ago.

According to WHO, Africa’s vaccination coverage is the lowest for any region of the world.

Globally, 150 doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered per 1,000 people, but in sub-Saharan Africa, this drops to about eight doses per 1,000.

“All the doses we have” should be injected into people’s arms urgently - “it’s a race against time and the virus”, Dr Moeti insisted on Thursday, before urging  countries to prioritize giving the first dose to as many high-risk people as possible in the shortest amount of time”, as this would likely reduce death rates substantially.

The UN health agency said that new coronavirus variants have added to the impending emergency on the continent.

The so-called Indian variant has been reported in at least one African country so far, while the South Africa strain “is spreading in 23 African countries” and the UK mutation has been found in 20.

Latin America right groups face growing threats, attacks: Bachelet

Finally, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet issued an alert on Thursday over the rising number of threats, attacks and attempts to undermine national human rights institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Governments and others in positions of power” including members of parliament and vigilante groups were at the root of the problem in a dozen countries, the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.

These rights institutions “work closely” with Ms. Bachelet’s Office and UN human rights mechanisms, she said, before insisting that they “must not face any form of abuse or interference, especially political pressure”.

Incidents reported to the UN Office of the High Commissioner in the past two years have covered Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador and Haiti, along with Guatemala and Mexico, where there were attempts “at the State level” to remove the head of the independent rights office in those countries.

Rights institutions in Ecuador and Uruguay also faced public statements discrediting their work, while the head of the Peruvian national human rights body had their immunity lifted.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver in US, hailed by UN chief
  • Maximize vaccines to avoid deadly 3rd wave in Africa - WHO
  • Latin America rights groups face growing threats, attacks: Bachelet
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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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© UNICEF/Seyba Keïta