The “inequitable distribution” of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide is becoming “more grotesque every day,” the head of World Health Organisation (WHO) said renewing calls for more solidarity.
Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus Adhanom WHO Chief said, “the gap between the number of vaccines administered in rich countries, and the number of vaccines administered through COVAX is growing every single day, and becoming worse every day.”
“Countries that are now vaccinating younger, healthy people at low risk of disease are doing so at the cost of the lives of health workers, older people and other at-risk groups in other countries,” Dr Tedros added.
“The world’s poorest countries wonder whether rich countries really mean what they say when they talk about solidarity!” he exclaimed.
Meanwhile, over 31 million doses had been delivered to 57 countries through the COVAX program as of March 2021.
Overall, only 0.1 per cent of doses administered worldwide have been administered in “low-income” countries, while “high-income” countries (16 per cent of the world’s population) account for more than half of the doses injected.
Dr Tedros stressed that “the inequitable distribution of vaccines is not just a moral outrage. It is also economically and epidemiologically self-defeating.”
“Some countries are racing to vaccinate their entire populations while other countries have nothing. This may buy short-term security, but it’s a false sense of security,” he noted.
The more transmission, the more variants. And the more variants that emerge, the more likely it is that they will evade vaccines.
“And as long as the virus continues to circulate anywhere, people will continue to die, trade and travel will continue to be disrupted, and the economic recovery will be further delayed,” Dr Tedros added.
He did not put some countries on blast but praised South Korea, which he said “has waited its turn for vaccines through COVAX.” Despite being a high-income country that could easily afford to buy vaccines through bilateral deals.
He also flagged that AstraZeneca for being “the only company that has committed to not profiting from its COVID-19 vaccine during the pandemic.
“And so far, it’s the only vaccine developer that has made a significant contribution to vaccine equity, by licensing its technology to several other companies, including SK Bio in the Republic of Korea and the Serum Institute of India,” he pointed out.
Nearly 123 million people have contracted the deadly virus since the beginning of the pandemic with COVID-19 also claiming more than 2.7 million lives, according to WHO figures.