With at least 167 million cases and 3.4 million coronavirus-related deaths reported globally, President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged world leaders to work towards closing the disparity between wealthier and poorer nations on access to vaccines.

Addressing the opening of the 194-member World Health Organisation’s (WHO) virtual World Health Assembly – in session until next month – Ramaphosa said wealthier nations had vaccinated millions of their citizens, while billions in poorer countries were left vulnerable to the infection, disease and death.

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He called for international support for the Covid-19 Tools Accelerator initiative he chaired with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, aimed at raising $18.5 billion (about R257.6 billion) to ensure appropriate tools for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, reached all parts of the globe.

Ramaphosa urged an increase in vaccine production across the world, including in low- and middle-income countries, through the establishment of a Global Health Council that would collaborate with WHO in support of response mechanisms.

“At this year’s World Health Assembly, we are urged to end this pandemic, prevent the next one and build a healthier, safer and fairer world,” said Ramaphosa.

“Effective and comprehensive global vaccination is vital to ending the pandemic. “None of us can hope to be safe unless we are all safe.”

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