New Delhi/Tokyo/UNI: Amid the widening gap between nations in administering COVID-19 vaccines, Japan on Wednesday pledged another 800 million dollars in funding to ensure a fair distribution of shots.
The amount is on top of a previous offer of 200 million dollars by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
"We must not allow a country's specific situation or economic power to determine its access to vaccines," Suga, who co-hosted an online summit attended by representatives from several countries, said.
Suga added Japan will provide 30 million domestically produced doses sometime in the future.
World leaders including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, US Vice President Kamala Harris and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as well as Microsoft Corp. co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates attended the summit.
Representatives from some 40 countries were said to be taking part in the meeting on the COVAX facility, which is seeking to secure 1.8 billion doses, enough for 30 per cent of the population of developing countries, by early 2022.
Guterres said 10 countries had administered more than 75 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines, while in poor countries even health workers and people with underlying conditions cannot access them.
"This is not only manifestly unjust, it is also self-defeating," he said.
"Our collective future depends on our collective response to the global crisis," said Harris.
"People are still contracting COVID-19. People are still dying every day. And that is why we must work together to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible in every nation throughout the world."
The online summit was co-hosted by Gavi, an alliance of governments, international organizations, companies and charities working towards accelerating immunization drive in poor countries.
The COVAX facility has already delivered more than 70 million shots to over 120 countries since February. The UN-backed initiative had raised $7 billion as of May 30, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.
Along with commitments from other countries and the private sector, the COVAX facility has surpassed its goal of $8.3 billion in funding to secure 1.8 billion doses, Kyodo News quoted Suga as saying.
The United States accounts for the largest share by far, having put forth $2.5 billion as well as 80 million doses. The European Union has also collectively offered billions of dollars and 100 million doses.
Austria, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland also announced funds for the Facility.