The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the ‘me-first approach’ is leaving the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world at serious risk as richer nations scramble to secure more Covid-19 vaccine supplies than needed.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told colleagues at the opening of the body’s annual Executive Board meeting that “the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure” and the “prospects for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines are at serious risk.”
Prolonging the epidemic
“Ultimately, these actions will only prolong the pandemic,” Ghebreyesus added.
Access to Covid vaccines is becoming an increasingly apparent challenge for some of the world’s poorest nations.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said earlier that some countries are “pursuing side deals, and even procuring beyond need.”
While all governments have a responsibility to protect their populations, Guterres warned that indulging in such “vaccinationalism” is self-defeating and will delay the global recovery.
In December, the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention John Nkengasong called on rich nations to share Covid-19 vaccine supplies, after a number of Western countries ordered quantities far in excess of their need.
Nkengasong said African nations were struggling to secure access to vaccines, while other nations were hoarding supplies.
He termed it a “moral issue” and said that “some countries have got three to five times more than they need.”
The People’s Vaccine Alliance – a network of organizations including Amnesty International, Oxfam, and Global Justice Now – says there is not enough to go round, and drug companies should share their technology to make sure more doses are produced.
Their analysis found that rich countries have bought enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations three times over if all the vaccines are approved for use.
Canada, for example, has ordered enough vaccines to protect each Canadian five times, the People’s Vaccine Alliance claims.