World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus chastised rich nations on Monday for seeking to inoculate their entire populations against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) at the expense of lives in poorer countries, describing the inequitable distribution of vaccines as “becoming more grotesque every day.”
“Countries that are now vaccinating younger, healthier people at low risk of disease are doing so at the cost of the lives of health workers, older people and other at-risk groups in other countries,” he said in a press conference on Monday. “The world’s poorest countries wonder whether rich countries really mean what they say when the talk about solidarity.”
In mid-January, Tedros warned the world is on “the brink of a catastrophic moral failure,” the price for which would be the lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.
At the time, more than 39 million doses of vaccine had been administered to some 49 richer countries while one poorer nation had only administered 25, he said.
According to Oxford University’s Our World Data project, some 500 million doses have been administered, with the United States at 124 million doses and China at 75 million compared to Nigeria and the Bahamas who as of last week had administered 8,000 doses and 110, respectively.
By doses per 100 people, Israel led the world with 112.52. Nigeria, with a population of more than 200 million, was at zero and the Bahamas and Vietnam were at 0.03 doses.
COVAX, the WHO-led initiative to provide equitable access to vaccines, as of Monday has shipped some 31 million doses to 57 participating nations, including Ghana, Brazil, Uganda, Mali, Malawi and others.
Tedros warned Monday that this inequitable distribution was not simply a moral failure but was also misguided, with rich nations attempting to buy “a false sense of security” through rushing to inoculate their entire populations.
“The more transmission, the more variants and the more variants that emerge the more likely it is they will evade vaccines,” he said. “And as long as the virus continues to circulate everywhere, anywhere, people will continue to die.” SOVEREIGNPH