The hoarding of vaccines by richer countries is a matter of concern for the head of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus has charged that there could be delays for COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to poorer countries under the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility.
He said, “Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country — not 25 million, not 25,000, just 25.”
Although he did not reveal the country’s name, it is reported in the press that he was referring to Guinea in West Africa.
“I need to be blunt: The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure,” Tedros said of the globe’s current vaccine effort.
He added that “the situation is compounded by the fact that most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries, where the profits are highest, rather than submitting full dossiers to WHO. This move could delay COVAX deliveries and create exactly the scenario COVAX was designed to avoid,” he said at the opening of the agency’s annual executive board meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Director-General further said, “It’s right that all governments want to prioritize vaccinating their health workers and older people first. But it’s not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries. There will be enough vaccine for everyone.”
Dr. Ghebreyesus called for countries to collaborate to ensure vaccination of health workers and older people within the first 100 days of this year.
He also urged rich countries to be transparent about their vaccine arrangements.
“We call on these countries to give much greater priority to COVAX’s place in the queue and to share their own doses with COVAX especially, once they have vaccinated their own health workers and all the population so that other countries can do the same. Second, we call on vaccine producers to provide WHO with full data for regulatory review in real-time, to accelerate approvals,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.
He lamented the position taken by richer countries and the danger it posed.
“We now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to some, they become another brick in the wall of inequality between the worlds of the world’s haves and have-nots,” Tedros said.
Additionally, he said, “There will be enough vaccines for everyone, but right now, we must work together as one global family to prioritize those most at risk of severe disease and death in all countries.”
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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