GENEVA (Reuters) – France will step up vaccine donations to the international COVAX vaccine programme in the coming months with a donation of 500,000 shots, including from suppliers other than AstraZeneca, President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday.
France is the first European Union member to send some of its own doses to developing countries. It has already announced that it will make an initial donation of 100,000 AstraZeneca doses this month, and Macron said the first batch was already on its way to West Africa.
“Now the time has come to share,” said Macron at a virtual event organised by the World Health Organization. “We will continue to receive more and more vaccines. We have sufficient means to step up our solidarity by donating doses.”
He called the current global distribution of vaccines “unacceptable”, adding that one in six Europeans had been vaccinated versus around 1 in 100 in Africa.
The 500,000 doses would be sent between now and mid-June, he said. He did not specify which vaccines these would be but said they would come from a range of suppliers and not only AstraZeneca.
The COVAX facility aims to secure 2 billion vaccine doses for lower-income countries by the end of 2021 but has so far delivered only around 40 million doses.
In March, France recommended the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine be used only in people over the age of 55, following reports of rare blood clots. The European Union has also given emergency approval to vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
(Reporting by Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Peter Graff)