Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization has expressed concern over the unequal distribution of vaccines, especially to health workers and the elderly in low-income countries.
According to Ghebreyesus, more than 39 million doses of vaccines have been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries, whereas, only 25 doses have been distributed in one low-income country.
He further disclosed that rich countries are sabotaging equitable access to drugs as some countries and companies continue to go around the COVAX facility in order to jump to the front of the queue by driving up prices. These actions, according to him, will lead to hoarding, a chaotic market, uncoordinated response, continued social and economic disruption, could delay the delivery of vaccines to poor countries, and prolong the pandemic.
While also speaking to the Executive Board, on Monday, during its 148th session, Ghebreyesus, stated: “The recent emergence of rapidly-spreading variants makes the rapid and equitable rollout of vaccines all the more important. But 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 world’s haves and have-nots.
“It’s right that all governments want to prioritize vaccinating their own 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. But right now, we must work together as one global family to prioritize those most at risk of severe diseases and death, in all countries.
“For the past 9 months, the ACT Accelerator and the COVAX vaccines pillar have been laying the groundwork for the equitable distribution and deployment of vaccines. We have secured 2 billion doses from five producers, with options on more than 1 billion more doses, and we aim to start deliveries in February. I use this opportunity to thank Gavi and CEPI.
“COVAX is ready to deliver what it was created for. But in recent weeks I have heard from several Member States who have questioned whether COVAX will get the vaccines it needs and whether high-income countries will keep the promises they have made. As the first vaccines begin to be deployed, the promise of equitable access is at serious risk.
“More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries. Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country. Not 25 million; not 25 thousand; just 25.
“I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.
Finally, he urged higher-income countries and manufacturers of vaccines to work together in solidarity to ensure that within the first 100 days of this year, vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries.