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WHO’s director-general deems vaccine nationalism a “catastrophic moral failure”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns bilateral deals could threaten COVAX facility

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that vaccine nationalism poses a “catastrophic moral failure”, adding that high-income countries are jumping “to the front of the queue” in securing COVID-19 vaccines.

The remarks, made during a speech ahead of a meeting of the WHO’s executive board, highlight the inequitable access to vaccines availability between high-income and the low-income countries.

Ghebreyesus noted that over 39 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries, adding that in one lowest-income country, only 25 doses have been delivered.

“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,” he added.

He also commented that bilateral deals signed by high-income countries could threaten the jointly-led COVAX facility by delaying deliveries and creating “exactly the scenario COVAX was designed to avoid, with hoarding, a chaotic market and uncoordinated response and continued social and economic disruption”.

COVAX is the vaccine pillar of the WHO’s ACT Accelerator – a collaborative initiative co-led by the WHO which aims to accelerate development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

The facility is designed to bolster procurement of promising COVID-19 vaccines to ensure the ‘best possible prices, volumes and timing for all countries’.

Ghebreyesus has now called on countries with bilateral contracts to provide transparency on these deals with COVAX – including on volumes, pricing and delivery dates.

He has also implored higher-income countries to prioritise COVAX’s “place in the queue” by sharing doses with the facility, with particular consideration to be given to health workers and older populations in low-income countries.

“My challenge to all member states is to ensure that by the time World Health Day arrives on 7 April, COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in every country, as a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges,” Ghebreyesus added.

In the UK, a total of 4.06 million people have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as of 17 January 2021.

The UK has so far approved three COVID-19 vaccines, from Pfizer/BioNTech (an mRNA-based vaccine), AstraZeneca(AZ)/Oxford University and most recently Moderna.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

19th January 2021

From: Healthcare

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