THE head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has pleaded with rich countries to check before ordering additional COVID-19 vaccine shots for themselves whether that undermines efforts to get vaccine shots to poorer nations.
Wealthy nations have snapped up several billion vaccine doses and some countries have ordered enough shots to vaccinate their populations more than once, while some countries in the developing world have little or none.
A successful global vaccination campaign is considered to be key to stemming the pandemic.
European nations have given financial support to the UN-backed COVAX scheme, which aims to get vaccines to the world’s most vulnerable people and are considering sharing some of their own doses – though they have not specified when.
On Friday, leaders of the Group of Seven industrial powers said they would accelerate global vaccine development and deployment and support “affordable and equitable access to vaccines” and treatments for COVID-19.
They cited a collective $7.5bn from the G7 to UN-backed efforts.
Vaccine supply troubles
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thanked the G7 countries for their “significant” pledges.
But he said after talks on Monday with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier that “even if you have the money, if you cannot use the money to buy vaccines … having the money doesn’t mean anything”.
He said some rich countries’ approaches to manufacturers to secure more vaccines are “affecting the deals with COVAX, and even the amount that was allocated for COVAX was reduced because of this”. He did not name those countries or give other details.
Tedros added that rich countries need to “cooperate in respecting the deals that COVAX did” and make sure before they seek more vaccines that their requests do not undermine those deals.
“But I don’t think they’re asking that question,” he said.
Tedros, who has previously warned that the world faces a “catastrophic moral failure” if COVID-19 vaccines are not distributed fairly, said he understands the political pressures leaders in high-income countries face.
They should, he added, tell voters that “the best way to protect you is not only to vaccinate you, but vaccinate the rest of the world, share the vaccine with the rest of the world”.
“If this virus is not defeated everywhere, we cannot defeat it globally. It will have a safe haven somewhere and can strike back,” Tedros said, adding that countries left behind in vaccinating could also become “breeding grounds for new variants”.