Virus outpacing vaccine effort
The WHO warned that Covid-19 was moving faster than the vaccines, and said the G7's vow to share a billion doses with poorer nations was simply not enough.
Global health leaders also warned the pledge was too little, too late, with more than 11 billion shots needed.
Faced with outrage over disparities in jab access, the Group of Seven industrialised powers pledged during a weekend summit in Britain to take their total dose donations to more than one billion, up from 130 million promised in February.
"I welcome the announcement that G7 countries will donate 870 million (new) vaccine doses, primarily through Covax," World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists on Monday evening.
"This is a big help, but we need more, and we need them faster. Right now, the virus is moving faster than the global distribution of vaccines.
"More than 10 thousand people are dying every day... these communities need vaccines, and they need them now, not next year."
While people in many wealthy nations are enjoying a return to a sense of normalcy thanks to high vaccination rates, the shots remain scarce in less well-off parts of the world.
In terms of doses administered, the imbalance between the G7 and low-income countries, as defined by the World Bank, is 73 to one.
Many of the donated G7 doses will be filtered through Covax, a global body charged with ensuring equitable vaccine distribution.
Run by the WHO, the Gavi vaccine alliance and CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, it has to date shipped more than 87 million vaccine doses to 131 countries -- far fewer than anticipated.
70 PERCENT TARGET
The WHO wants at least 70 percent of the world's population vaccinated by the next G7 meeting in Germany next year.
"To do that, we need 11 billion doses. The G7 and G20 can make this happen," said Tedros.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders questioned how sincere the G7 was in pursuing vaccine equity.
"We need to see more clarity around the actual number of doses donated, and exactly how long it's going to take to translate their pledges into real impact and access," the medical charity's Hu Yuanqiong told AFP.
As well as dose sharing, the G7 anti-pandemic battle plan includes commitments to avert future pandemics -- slashing the time taken to develop and licence vaccines to under 100 days, reinforcing global surveillance and strengthening the WHO.
But observers voiced scepticism at their willingness to follow through on the last point especially.
"I will believe (that) point when the contributions to WHO are increased," tweeted Ilona Kickbusch, founding director and chair of the Global Health Centre in Geneva.
Others stressed the need to quickly resolve the issue of Covid vaccine patent protections, to boost production.
Full-fledged negotiations towards a possible suspension of intellectual property protections for Covid vaccines, as well as other medical tools needed to battle the pandemic, have just begun at the World Trade Organization after months of contentious debate.
ALARM RISES IN INDIA
Having barely got over a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections, India was gripped with alarm yesterday over risks of a resurgence as crowds thronged railway stations and shopping malls a day after major cities relaxed curbs on movement.
The capital New Delhi, in the north, and tech hub Bengaluru, in the south, were among the cities that have begun lifting strict lockdowns as the nationwide tally of new infections dropped to its lowest level in more than two months.
After a strict five-week lockdown, authorities in Delhi have fully re-opened shops and malls, and allowed restaurants to have 50% seating. Suburban rail networks can run at 50% capacity, and offices have been partially reopened.
"Delhi's top #mall saw a footfall of 19,000 people last weekend- as soon as it reopened. Have we gone totally mad?" Ambrish Mithal, a doctor with a Max HealthCare hospital in New Delhi said on Twitter. "Wait for #COVID19 to explode again- and blame the government, hospitals, country."
Disease experts have cautioned that a race towards resuming business as usual would compromise vaccination efforts as only about 5% of all 950 million eligible adults have been inoculated.
Doctors say Delhi's near-complete re-opening is concerning. The city's authorities have said they would reimpose strict curbs if needed.
Meanwhile, the Chinese scientist at the center of theories that the pandemic originated with a leak from her specialized lab in the city of Wuhan has denied her institution was to blame for the health disaster.
"How on earth can I offer up evidence for something where there is no evidence?" Dr Shi Zhengli told The New York Times in rare comments to the media.
"I don't know how the world has come to this, constantly pouring filth on an innocent scientist," she told the US daily.
US President Joe Biden last month ordered intelligence agencies to investigate the origin of the pandemic, including the lab-leak theory.