The Director-General of the World Health Oraganisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyrsus has expressed deep concern over the “catastrophic moral failure” in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, which has resulted in the wealthy countries acquiring much of the vaccine, while the poor countries are left behind.
The WHO DG, who made this disclosure at the body’s Annual Executive Board meeting held virtually on Monday, urged countries and manufacturers to spread doses more fairly around the world.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the prospects for equitable distribution were at “serious risk” just as its COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme aimed to start distributing inoculations next month.
According to him: “This could delay COVAX deliveries and create exactly the scenario COVAX was designed to avoid with hoarding, a chaotic market, an uncoordinated response and continued social and economic disruption. Such a ‘me-first approach’ left the world’s poorest and most vulnerable at risk.
“Ultimately, these actions will only prolong the pandemic, countries should avoid making the same mistakes made during the H1N1 and HIV pandemics.’’ Tedros said.
He further revealed that more than 39 million vaccine doses had been administered in 49 higher-income countries whereas just 25 doses had been given in one poor country.
Tedros therefore called on vaccine manufacturers to prioritize submitting their data to WHO for approval of the vaccines use globally, rather than approaching wealthy countries for regulatory approval.
Observers say this board meeting, which last until next Tuesday, is one of the most important in the U.N. health agency’s more than 70-year history and could shape its role in global health long after the pandemic ends.
On the agenda of the meeting is the reform of WHO as well as its financing system, which was revealed as inadequate after its largest donor, the United States, announced its withdrawal last year.
Just as the total recorded deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic surpassed its 2million mark, the global scramble for shots has intensified, as more infectious virus variants circulate.