Saturday, January 22

‘No way to sugarcoat this’: World leaders must push distribution of COVID-19 injections, says WHO

Senior officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) urged world leaders on Wednesday to accelerate the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine globally, as low-income countries have so far received only four vaccines for every 100 persons.

During a live question and answer session on Facebook, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said that while 133 vaccines have been distributed for every 100 people in high-income countries so far , only four doses have been distributed for every 100 people. administered in low-income countries.

“Only one low-income country achieved a vaccination target of 10% that we had set for ourselves at the end of September,” he added. “So actually 70% of all vaccines on the planet have been used in 10 countries.”

About 48% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccines, according to Our World in Data, and 36% are now fully vaccinated.

Europe and North America have the highest proportion of fully vaccinated people, 54% and 50% respectively. Africa has the lowest rate with only 5.2% of the continent’s 1.2 billion people fully protected against the risk of serious diseases.

The situation in Africa is “scandalous,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, during the Facebook livestream.

“This is causing people to die unnecessarily. You know people who are some of the most appreciated people in our population and the front-line workers who care for and keep people alive are dying unnecessarily.”

“There is absolutely no way to sugarcoat this. We shouldn’t. We should be shouting from the rooftop and every person who has a role to play here, to fight for vaccine equity, should.”

Developed countries have pledged to donate part of their surpluses through COVAX, a WHO-led initiative to distribute vaccines. The G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, the UK, and the US) pledged at a meeting in June to donate 870 million doses of vaccines, with the goal of delivering at least half by the end of 2021.

COVAX has shipped 378 million doses to 144 countries around the world since its first shipment to Ghana in late February, roughly two months after the vaccines were rolled out in Russia, the UK, the US, and the EU. . But “it is not happening fast enough,” emphasized Dr. Van Kerkhove.

“We need those vaccines to be shared now. We need countries to be able to buy those vaccines now, not next year because people are dying now.”

“You cannot end the pandemic in one country and protect a country and think that this is over. Sorry, this is not how this virus works, it is not how the variants and their circulation work. We cannot just protect alone. a part of the world, “he also said.

More than 4.9 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with nearly 60% of deaths seen this year, according to WHO data.

Dr. Ryan emphasized that COVAX now has “the means to deliver these vaccines efficiently and equitably around the world to those who need them most and I believe we can do so and continue to vaccinate people in the developed world.”

“All of this can be accomplished if we do it in the right sequence with the right ethics and the right public health goals in mind,” he said, adding: “Sometimes I have a hard time understanding why we can’t recognize the inherent logic and ethics. inherent in that argument because it is the smartest and correct thing to do. “

The WHO expected all countries to vaccinate 10% of their population by the end of September, accelerating to 40% by the end of the year to finally reach 70% in mid-2022. Fifty-six countries failed to meet the 10% target, the vast majority of them in Africa and the Middle East.

“If we can get to that 40% by the end of the year, if we can get close to that, then we are really protecting the most vulnerable,” said Dr. Ryan.

“We need to vaccinate the right people in each country in terms of the people most at risk and I think we could get there,” he added, citing upcoming G20 meetings and the special session of the World Health Assembly scheduled for late November. .

“We have many opportunities to create the global momentum that we need,” he said.

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