Talks collapse on classifying vaccine donations as development aid – EURACTIV.com

Talks between wealthy nations on how to report donated COVID vaccines have collapsed after they failed to agree on a common rules regime.

The failure by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) follows months of wrangling, as countries struggled to agree on a standard price for donated vaccines. The impasse means that donors can still report donated doses as development aid.

The OECD DAC Secretariat will issue a guidance note on how excess vaccine donations should be reported, using $6.72 as a baseline for each excess vaccine dose donated.

If the EU and its member states used that price, that could lead to over $1 billion being allocated to Official Development Assistance (ODA) for donated excess vaccine doses for 2021. However, donors could also decide to report them at another price.

In 2020, development aid from the EU increased by more than 25% on the strength of programmes to donate vaccines and personal protective equipment to tackle COVID-19.

Civil society groups have complained that since the doses were never bought for aid purposes, and that vaccine hoarding hindered the ability of developing countries in Africa and elsewhere to vaccinate their people, the doses should not be counted as development aid.

“The plain fact is that rich countries bought vast quantities of vaccines – more than they needed – and they have been planning to count the donation of these excess vaccines to poorer countries in their aid statistics,” said Nerea Craviotto, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer at the European Network for Debt and Development.

The question of vaccine donations has become one of the main points of contention during the pandemic. Developing countries have complained that the EU and other western states hoarded vaccines, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accusing the EU of “vaccine apartheid”, resulting in huge disparities between the number of vaccinated people in wealthy western states and in developing countries.

Donations to the international vaccine coordinator, COVAX, to which the EU is the second-largest donor, are also to be counted as aid. COVAX, however, is facing a funding crisis which has left it unable to accept new vaccine donations because it has a shortage of syringes.

“ODA has a vital role to play not only in providing COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to citizens in developing countries, but also in supporting developing countries to shore up their health systems more generally,” said a group of civil society organisations in a joint statement.

“It is time for OECD DAC members to do the right thing and ensure that the credibility of ODA is not undermined any further,” they added.

The vaccine issue is set to be addressed at next week’s EU–African Union summit in Brussels. While EU states are still divided over whether to agree to a short–term waiver of intellectual property rights for vaccines, the EU is set to offer a new programme on vaccine sharing and donations.

The summit is also expected to see the launch of a €1 billion initiative to expand pharmaceutical production capacity in Africa which includes regional actions to support the Partnership on Africa Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) and technology transfer.

[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]

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