World facing ‘catastrophic moral failure’ on vaccines, says WHO chief

18 Janvier, 2021, 19:36 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • COVAX is a WHO-led initiative that aims to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries

Terming the development and approval of COVID vaccines less than a year after the emergence of Novel Coronavirus as a "stunning scientific achievement", the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday expressed it's concern over the "distribution of the vaccine between the poor and rich counties".

"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", said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general, WHO.

"WHO has to remain relevant and ... has to come out of this crisis with more strength than before", said WHO Executive Board Vice-Chair Bjoern Kuemmel of Germany in comments last week.

However, critics say the absence of Pfizer's shot is an important gap and one of the reasons that poorer countries are lagging behind wealthier ones in administering vaccines.

COVAX is a WHO-led initiative that aims to provide COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries. "Not 25 million; not 25,000; just 25", he said.

He also accused some countries of committing reassuring words on equitable access and prioritising their own selfish motives by securing deals for themselves in a hurry with the aim of skipping waiting time, leading to a surge in prices.

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He noted 44 bilateral deals were signed last year and at least 12 have already been signed this year. Tedros did not single out any countries or companies.

"The situation is compounded by the fact that most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approvals in rich countries where the profits are highest rather than submitting full dossiers to the WHO", added Tedros, who has called for the distribution of vaccines to health care workers and the elderly in all countries within the first 100 days of this year.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus kicked off WHOs week-long executive board meeting - virtually from its headquarters in Geneva - on Monday by lamenting that only 25 vaccine doses have been provided in a single poor country, while over 39 million doses have been administered in almost 50 richer nations. "Ultimately, these actions will only prolong the pandemic, prolong our pain, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering".

He said such moves are driving up prices of the vaccines. "We also call on producers to allow countries with bilateral contracts to share doses with COVAX, and to prioritize supplying COVAX rather than new bilateral deals", said the World Health Organization chief.

"There will be enough vaccine for everyone", Tedros insisted.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than two million people since the outbreak emerged in China in late 2019.

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