Germany gives extra $1.8 bln for vaccine rollout in poor countries

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Germany is donating an additional 1.5 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to boost the rollout of vaccines in the world’s poorest countries, the finance minister said Friday, increasing an earlier contribution of 600 million euros.

“Today we want to make clear: we stand with the poorest countries. Germany is providing a further 1.5 billion euros for Covax, WHO and others,” Olaf Scholz said in a statement.

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“Vaccines are the only way out of the pandemic.”

The move was announced following a virtual G7 meeting at which leaders pledged to ensure coronavirus vaccines reach everyone in the world.

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Rich countries have come under fire for hoarding Covid-19 jabs at the expense of poorer countries, despite warnings from health experts that vaccines can only end the pandemic if they are distributed globally.

European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen announced earlier that the bloc was doubling its contribution to the Covax global Covid-19 vaccination program to one billion euros.

Covax is a global project to procure and distribute coronavirus vaccines for at least the most vulnerable 20 percent in every country, allowing poorer states to catch up with the vaccination rush by dozens of wealthy countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said vaccine sharing was “a question of fairness.”

But she also sought to reassure Germans that they were not being overlooked, following criticism of the sluggish start to the EU’s own vaccine drive.

“We also have an obligation towards our own citizens,” she told reporters after the G7 talks.

“There has to be a balance,” Merkel said, vowing that “not a single German vaccination appointment” would be affected by efforts to improve the global vaccine drive.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “grateful” for the latest Covax pledges, but stressed that more donations were needed.

“Vaccine equity is not just right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do,” he said at the annual Munich Security Conference, held online because of the pandemic.

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