NEW YORK (Reuters) -Vaccinating the globe against COVID-19 needs to be sped up to beat mutations of the virus, and the United States is looking at how it can do more to help, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday.
“If the entire world doesn’t do more, the world won’t be vaccinated until 2024. We can speed this up and get that done, I think, in much shorter time,” Blinken said in an interview with MSNBC during a visit to Ukraine.
The United States has pledged to start sharing up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine with other countries, and President Joe Biden on Wednesday threw U.S. support behind waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines.
“We’re looking at other things too, but the main thing is we have to speed this up,” Blinken said. “None of us are going to be fully safe until … we get as many people vaccinated as possible.”
Blinken described a patent waiver as “one possible means of increasing manufacture, and access to vaccines.” The U.S. decision paved the way for what could be months of negotiations at the World Trade Organization to hammer out a specific plan.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday that, if agreed by the WTO, the patent waiver would be an important move, “but we also need to work simultaneously on the scaling up of manufacturing … ensuring that everyone has access to all the basic elements that are needed to manufacture the vaccine.”
Dujarric said financial support was also needed to ensure that vaccines are produced “in as many places as possible and as close as possible to those who will be consuming them.”
The U.S. waiver support comes amid a devastating outbreak in India, which accounted for 46% of the new COVID-19 cases recorded worldwide last week, and signs that the outbreak is spreading to Nepal, Sri Lanka and other neighbors.
“If it’s mutating with a new variant, it could come back here and bite us even after people have been vaccinated, so we have to get ahead of that and we have to get ahead of it around the world,” Blinken said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by David Gregorio and Will Dunham)