WHO says 'dire' lack of vaccines 'exposes the unfairness of our world'
The lack of vaccines for use in poorer countries is "exposing the unfairness of our world," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.
The World Health Organization has helped put together deals to supply nearly 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer countries during 2021, via its Covax scheme.
But supplies have slowed down, or dried up completely, as a result of production issues and countries using vaccines they have bought on their entire populations before getting round to donating doses.
At a recent press briefing, members of the senior WHO team were asked whether they were worried that countries that get vaccines via the Covax scheme might not distribute the jabs efficiently.
Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the issue was not a relevant one, given the current issue was not having any vaccine doses to share.
"The situation right now is dire.We have, through Covax this month, zero doses of AstraZeneca vaccine... zero doses of J&J vaccine," he said.
Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's emergencies program, also took issue with the suggestion: "The level of paternalism, the level of colonial mindset that says we can't give you something because we're afraid you won't use it. I mean – seriously? In the middle of a pandemic?"
Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the lack of vaccine availability meant that "as a global community, we are failing. We're repeating the same mistake as HIV AIDS, which took 10 years to reach the low-income countries.
"Just give us the vaccines. You know, some people are asking me about vaccine hesitancy in Africa. That's not the problem. There is no vaccine, so why do we even talk about vaccine hesitancy? The problem is vaccine supply... and that's causing a two-track pandemic."
He added: "The differences between the haves and the have nots, which is now completely exposing the unfairness of our world. The injustice… and that's the problem.
"The whole world is sick and tired of lockdowns. You can see it from how the citizens of the high-income countries are behaving now.
"They are so happy it's opened up. Restaurants are full. The streets are full. Everywhere you go, you see crowds as if there is no pandemic.
"Then you go to countries where there is no vaccine access.
(Cover pic: File photo of COVAX vaccinations being unloaded in Ethiopia in March. /Reuters)