Two billion doses of “safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines” have been secured by the international equitable vaccine alliance COVAX, and they will be ready for distribution as soon they are delivered, the UN health agency chief said.
“And we also have the right of first refusal on an additional one billion doses”, World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, updated journalists in a regular media briefing.
He highlighted, however, that of the 42 countries already rolling out the various COVID-19 vaccines which have been cleared for use, 36 are in high-income nations.
“There’s a clear problem that low and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet”, Tedros said, adding that can and must be solved “together through COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator”.
As rich countries have purchased most of the supply so far, Tedros said it was apparent that even within the alliance, middle and high-income countries are making bilateral deals, potentially bumping up the price for everyone, leaving vaccines out of reach for the poorest and most marginalized nations.
“Vaccine nationalism hurts us all and is self-defeating”, spelled out the top WHO official.
Tedros said that vaccinating equitably “saves lives, stabilizes health systems” and would lead to “a truly global economic recovery that stimulates job creation”.
Although it is normal for viruses to mutate, the WHO chief maintained that “if we don’t reduce transmission and vaccinate equitably…we’re helping it thrive”.
“Going forward, I want to see manufacturers prioritize supply and rollout through COVAX”, he said. “And I urge countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of COVAX”.