EU backs donating COVID-19 shots to African health workers

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GENEVA/ZURICH (Reuters) - European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday supported a call by French President Emmanuel Macron to donate COVID-19 vaccines to health care workers in Africa, as a star-studded event was announced to support equitable distribution.

“Vaccines are still scarce everywhere but it is in our common interest to share,” von der Leyen said in a webcast with the World Health Organisation (WHO).I

“And I therefore support President Macron’s proposal to donate vaccine doses that are necessary to vaccinate health care workers in Africa.”

The European Union has contributed an additional 500 million euros ($606 million) to the WHO-backed COVAX programme to supply COVID-19 shots to emerging economies, doubling the bloc’s initial contribution.

Global Citizen, an international pressure group that aims to end extreme poverty by 2030, launched a campaign to support equitable distribution of vaccines that will feature a broadcast special in May.

Artists scheduled to participate include Grammy-winning American singer-songwriter, Billie Eilish.

“A year ago I was three shows into my world tour, when because of COVID-19 we had to cancel everything ... The pandemic is still raging across the globe, and I’m still at home like most of you,” the 19-year-old said.

“But we’ve seen how we can create change, when we come together and use our voices so we’ve got to take action to get everybody access to COVID-19 vaccines as quickly as possible.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Michael Shields and Silke Koltrowitz; editing by John Stonestreet