France has become the first nation to donate COVID-19 vaccine doses to low-income countries via the international COVAX initiative to help curb the epidemic, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced.
The French leader called on the international community to share vaccine doses with nations currently struggling to access them, at the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator on April 22.
"Our health is also at stake in the poorest countries," he stressed at the virtual event, during which world leaders, international organizations, and partners discussed solutions to help end the pandemic.
"One in six people in Europe got the vaccine, one in five in North America, but only one in 100 in Africa. This is unacceptable," he added, highlighting the global inequalities in how the vaccines are currently being rolled out.
The first batch of over 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, donated by France, arrived in Mauritania on April 26 to vaccinate "high priority groups and, in particular, health professionals," Macron said.
France will donate 500,000 doses by mid-June with "an increasingly diverse mix of vaccines," he added.
In response to his pledge, multi-platinum recording artist Selena Gomez thanked the head of state and called on all G7 leaders to also pledge to share vaccine doses, in addition to providing financial support to the vaccine distribution, as part of Global Citizen's campaign VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World, which she will host.
Dear @SelenaGomez, thank you for carrying this crucial message to all leaders. France has already started sending out its first doses of vaccine to Africa through #Covax, and it's just the beginning.— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) April 25, 2021
Thanks for spreading the word!
Let's stand with those who have less. Now.
The VAX LIVE broadcast will air and stream globally from May 8 and will bring together artists, entertainers, world leaders and other partners to support vaccine equity around the world and mitigate COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Find out here how you can tune in and watch from around the world.
Given the issues with COVID-19 vaccine nationalism (with rich countries buying up the world’s vaccines supply) and vaccine inequity globally, Macron stressed that many African nations are relying on international efforts, including the COVAX mechanism, to secure COVID-19 vaccine doses.
COVAX works to ensure that the most vulnerable populations have access to COVID-19 vaccines. It aims to provide 1.8 billion doses of vaccine by early 2022 and immunize nearly 30% of the population in low-income countries.
It is a joint effort of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, in partnership with UNICEF.
The COVAX program is currently seeing a $2 billion funding gap, with $400 million raised for the poorest countries at an event hosted by the US and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance on April 15. But more is still urgently needed.
"The credibility of multilateralism in global health is at stake today," said Macron. Earlier this year, he called on Europe and the US to deliver 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Africa.
'Now the time has come to share'
The European leader's commitment paves the way for a more equitable distribution of vaccines to the most vulnerable nations. Like France, wealthier states can donate extra doses of COVID-19 vaccine bought for their own use without entering into an agreement with vaccine producers.
Thank you @EmmanuelMacron, for donating 105,600 #COVID19 vaccine doses to #COVAX. This vital donation sets an example to world leaders to commit to a global solution to a global crisis and I urge other leaders to also donate surplus doses. https://t.co/3Mr0PTGhkz— Seth Berkley (@GaviSeth) April 27, 2021
"Those who have pre-ordered vaccines, many vaccines — and France and Europe are among them — have a responsibility to the rest of the world," Macron acknowledged.
The French President also said that the goal to supply countries participating in COVAX with at least 5% of all doses acquired by France by the end of 2021, would be exceeded.
“From the beginning, France has been one of the driving forces behind the ACT Accelerator and COVAX — and President Macron has been a leading voice in calling for vaccine equity and support for dose-sharing,” said Gavi CEO Dr. Seth Berkley in a statement.
Call for international solidarity
France has become the second participating country in VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World to pledge to donate vaccines and the first to actually ship the donated doses.
Last week, in response to the VAX LIVE campaign, Spain also vowed to donate nearly 7.5 million vaccine doses to Latin American and Caribbean governments as soon as half its population is vaccinated.
As part of Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World campaign, VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World will bring together artists, entertainers, world leaders, and more to ensure equitable vaccine distribution around the world, tackle COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, and celebrate a hopeful future.
Find out how to tune in here, and join us in taking action to end the pandemic and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to COVID-19 vaccines. Then, head to our multimedia hub VAX BECAUSE to join candid conversations about the pandemic and find answers to your biggest questions about the vaccines.
Want to take home part of the show? Check out our VAX LIVE merch at the Global Citizen official store.