As several countries have rolled out coronavirus vaccines, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has questioned the fairness in the distribution of the vaccines and said that the world is on the “brink of a catastrophic moral failure”.
“It was not fair for younger, healthy people in richer nations to get injections before vulnerable people in poorer states,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
He said over 39 million vaccine doses had been given in 49 richer states – but one poor nation had only 25 doses and urged countries and manufacturers to share COVID-19 doses more fairly
Speaking during the WHO’s executive board virtual meeting, Tedros said, “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.”
WHO chief on ‘me-first approach’
The WHO chief’s statement comes days after he called for rich and middle-income countries to stop making bilateral deals with pharmaceutical firms because, he said, it hurt the UN-led effort to ensure poorer nations also get the jabs.
Such a “me-first approach” left the world’s poorest and most vulnerable at risk, he added.”Ultimately these actions will only prolong the pandemic,” Tedros said.
What has the response been?
In response to Dr. Tedros’ warning, Canada in particular, came in for criticism, with the coalition saying the North American nation had ordered enough vaccine doses to protect each Canadian five times.
In December, Karina Gould, Canada’s minister of international development, denied allegations the country was hoarding vaccines, saying any discussion of a surplus was “hypothetical” as the doses had not been delivered.
She said Canada was providing C$485 million ($380 million; £280 million) to help developing countries cope with Covid-19.
Another reaction comes from UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying: “The UK is the world’s biggest supporter, financial supporter, of the global programme to ensure access to vaccines in all countries in the world.”
Mr. Hancock said the UK had “put the most financial support in these international efforts to ensure everybody has access to vaccines”.
The UK government has provided £548m ($734m) to the Covax programme.
More than four million people in the UK have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to government figures.
People in their 70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable in England are now among those being offered the jab.
Last month, the People’s Vaccine Alliance coalition of campaigning bodies said that rich countries were hoarding doses of Covid vaccines and people living in poor countries were set to miss out.
It said that nearly 70 lower-income countries would only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people.