Coronavirus production at Pfizer Puurs site. Credit: Belga
Belgium should double its production of coronavirus vaccines to ensure an equitable distribution of doses in the world, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said during a visit to Brussels on Thursday.
Guterres, who met with Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and several other ministers before speaking at the European Parliament, emphasised the disparity between the number of administered vaccines in Europe compared to in Africa.
“We must double the production of vaccines as there are still another 11 billion vaccines needed to obtain collective immunity by 2022,” he said.
Belgium has pledged to donate four million doses to the UN COVAX programme, which aims to give all countries in the world, including the poorest ones, access to vaccines, by the end of the year and contributed €4 million in donations.
“The pandemic is not over. While Belgium and other European countries are coming out of a period of strict containment, in other countries vaccination efforts are far behind us,” De Croo said.
“It is therefore important to increase the overall production capacity. Belgium, as one of the world’s vaccine powers, will continue to play an important role in this regard,” he added following the meeting with the UN head, who was travelling abroad for the first time since his re-election for a second term.
Belgium is at the centre of vaccine production in Europe, with the Pfizer site located in the Flemish municipality Puurs, which recently received the green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to increase its manufacturing capacity.
At another location in Seneffe, Wallonia, the AstraZeneca vaccine is being produced, whilst Johnson & Johnson vaccines are being produced in a Janssen Pharmaceutica in Beerse, in the province of Antwerp.
During the meeting, De Croo and Guterres also discussed conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, tackling climate change through sustainable development, and combatting poverty.
“Belgium is particularly concerned about inequality and increasing poverty in the least developed countries, the consequences of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” a press release from De Croo’s cabinet stated.
“Belgium will therefore continue to focus its efforts on social protection and access to quality services,” it added.