WHO chief calls for equitable access to Covid vaccines

World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that 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 as they are delivered.

“And we also have the right of first refusal on an additional one billion doses,” the UN health agency chief told journalists on Friday.

Level-playing field

The WHO Director-General, has, however, highlighted that of the 42 countries already rolling out the various COVID-19 vaccines which have been cleared for use, 36 are high-income nations.

“There’s a clear problem that low- and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet,” Tedros said, adding the problem can and must be solved “together through COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator”.

COVAX – set up last April by WHO, GAVI, the vaccine alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) – is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to provide COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to all, regardless of their ability to pay.

As rich countries have purchased most of the supplies so far, Tedros said, it’s 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 marginalised nations”.

“Vaccine nationalism hurts us all and is self-defeating,” said the top UN health official.

Tedros also said that vaccinating equitably “saves lives, stabilises 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 prioritise supply and rollout through COVAX,” he said. “And I urge countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of COVAX”.

Stay out of the mix

Tedros has warned that it’s is a very dangerous time in the course of the pandemic, “with some of the highest numbers of deaths recorded at any point to date” and reiterated the urgency in complying with health advisories and recommended measures.

“If I said one thing to people in areas where there are high numbers of cases, it would be to do all you can to avoid mixing with people from other households, especially inside,” he said.

“It is best to meet virtually but if you have to meet others, do it carefully and with the right precautions,” the WHO boss added.

Win or lose ‘together’

The WHO chief has also called on nations to ensure the vaccination of healthcare workers on a priority basis. “Remember, ending this pandemic is one of humanities great races, and whether we like it or not, we will win or lose this race together.”

“No country is exceptional and should cut the queue and vaccinate all their population, while some remain with no supply,” Tedros said.

“Science has delivered, let’s not waste the opportunity to protect lives of those most at risk and ensure all economies have a fair shot at recovery,” he added.

Source: United News of Bangladesh