Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

Vaccine inequities expose humanity to variants, Colombia's Duque tells U.N. General Assembly

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Colombia's President Ivan Duque addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 21, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Pool

BOGOTA, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Colombian President Ivan Duque told the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that the international community must equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines to avoid the creation of new, more fearsome variants of the coronavirus.

The South American country is aiming to vaccinate at least 70% of its 50 million inhabitants. Production delays at vaccine manufacturers have left some Colombians waiting for doses in recent weeks.

"I call on the international community to strengthen multilateralism in regards to health and advance in vaccine distribution equity. It is our moral duty," Duque said during his speech to the 76th assembly.

"If delays in the equal distribution of vaccines continue in all countries we, humanity, are exposed to new variants attacking us with greater ferocity. Global immunity requires solidarity, so hoarding cannot exist in the face of others' needs," Duque said.

Some countries have acquired enough doses for six or seven times their population and have announced third booster doses, he added, while others have not been able to administer any shots.

There have been more than 126,000 COVID-19 deaths in Colombia, according to health ministry figures. Some 16.1 million people in the Andean country are fully vaccinated and another 22.4 million have been given a first dose.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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