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‘Deadly gap’ in distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, warns IFRC

Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). (Source: Keystone)

Plans to vaccinate 500 million people against the coronavirus in the hardest to reach places lacks financial backing, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

On Tuesday, the Geneva-based humanitarian aid organisation set itself the task of addressing the glaring gap in the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to remote communities.

To carry out these efforts the IFRC said it needed 100 million Swiss francs to fill the logistics gap between doses reaching the airports and remote areas. However, the organisation has only been able to raise three per cent of this figure. 

IFRC president Francesco Rocca said: "Without this funding, a gap will remain between the vaccines that will ultimately end this pandemic, and some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in the world," 

"Such a gap means that the virus will continue to circulate and mutate, and that people will continue to get sick and die."

Even with the global equitable vaccine sharing facility, Covax, delivering more than 20 million doses to lower income countries, these may not necessarily reach the most vulnerable.

"Initiatives like Covax ensure that vaccines will reach the tarmac of airports in the capital cities of participating countries," said Rocca. "However, they need to be complemented by initiatives designed to get those vaccines off the tarmac and out into the arms of all who need them."

So far volunteers in the national societies are helping to  roll out the  vaccination campaigns, with an estimated seven million people mostly in the Asia-pacific region jabbed. 

The IFRC explained that: “National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are already working with governments to vaccinate at-risk and isolated communities. For example, in Brazil, Red Cross volunteers and staff are vaccinating extremely isolated communities in the Amazon. In the Maldives, the Red Crescent has supported the vaccination of unregistered migrants, while similar efforts are underway in Greece and in the Czech Republic.” 

In his final pleas Rocco said “Our message today is simple: we need urgent funding so that we can continue and expand vaccination efforts into all communities.”