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DAVOS 2021: Fortune 500 could join global vaccination effort, CEO says

Photo from 10 March 2020
Frank Appel, chairman of German logistics group DHL, gestures as he speaks during the company's annual news conference in Troisdorf, western Germany, in March last year. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty

The chief executive of one of the world’s biggest employers has suggested letting Fortune 500 companies take part in global COVID-19 vaccination efforts once more supply becomes available.

“We would be more than prepared to buy and bring it around the world for our own purpose,” Frank Appel, the chief executive of Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPW.DE), said on Tuesday. “Other companies have enough balance sheet strength to do that. I think that should be considered.

“Not now, because at the moment it’s impossible, we should not divert anything from governments. But in due course of the year, or next year, there definitely might be more available and still some countries might not be able to do that so let’s do that as multinationals.”

READ MORE: AstraZeneca CEO criticises 'me first' approach to COVID

Appel said the size of his workforce and that of other large companies meant vaccinating their employees could make a meaningful difference in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Deutsche Post DHL is one of the ten biggest employers in the world.

“We have 570,000 people around the world,” Appel said. “If we vaccinate them, it is not a game changer. But if you do that for the top 500 Fortune 500 companies, it will be a significant step in the right direction.”

Appel made the comments during a virtual appearance at the Davos Agenda conference of world leaders and senior business people.

READ MORE: Row between EU and AstraZeneca over vaccine supply

The suggestion that corporate entities could get involved in procuring vaccines comes amid a row between the European Union and AstraZeneca (AZN.L) over vaccine supply. The EU has accused AstraZeneca of reneging on a deal to deliver millions of doses, threatening the bloc’s vaccination plans. AstraZeneca says it has been scuppered by manufacturing issues.

Appel stressed that companies like his would not enter the vaccine market at the moment given the high demand from states.

“The problem is we don’t want to want to buy at the moment from life science companies because we don’t want to divert volumes from governments,” he said.

“If the governments are saying we can’t afford it, we don’t have access, let the multi-nationals — many of them are present at Davos — let them buy them and vaccinate their own people.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 crisis won't end until developing nations get vaccine

Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive of the global vaccine alliance Gavi, said there was “a little bit of a global vaccine panic” caused by the emergence of new strains of COVID-19.

“Many countries want vaccines as of today,” he said, appearing alongside Appel at Davos.

“There’s been more of a sense of urgency with moving vaccines as quickly as possible.”

WATCH: 76 rich countries join global vaccine alliance