Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the prospects for equitable vaccine distribution are “at risk”.
The world is on the brink of “catastrophic moral failure” over COVID-19 vaccine distribution, warns World Health Organization (WHO) chief, urging countries and manufacturers to share doses more equitably between the countries.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that the prospects for equitable distribution are at “serious risk”, just the COVAX vaccine sharing program aims to start distributing vaccines next month. COVAX is a WHO-led initiative that aims to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries.
He noted that 44 bilateral agreements had been signed last year and at least 12 had already been signed this year.
“This could delay COVAX deliveries and create exactly the scenario COVAX was designed to avoid, with hoarding, a chaotic market, uncoordinated response, and continued social and economic disruption,” he said.
Such a “me first” approach has put the world’s poorest and most vulnerable at risk, he said at the opening of the organization’s annual Executive Board meeting in a virtual format.
“Ultimately, these actions will only prolong the pandemic.”
The global rush for vaccines has intensified as more infectious variants of the virus circulate.
Tedros cited as an example of inequality the fact that over 39 million doses of vaccine were given in 49 high-income countries while only 25 doses had been given in a poor country.
Earlier this month, he called on drugmakers and richer countries to “stop making bilateral deals,” saying they had hampered UN-backed efforts to expand access. Tedros did not identify any country or company.
A report published in early December by the People’s Vaccine Alliance warned that up to 90 percent of the population of dozens of poorer countries will not benefit from the coronavirus vaccine.
In its report, the alliance said rich countries had racked up enough doses to immunize their entire population nearly three times, leaving some 67 poor countries with only enough to immunize one in 10 people.