The head of the World Health Organisation has labeled it “grotesque” that countries such as the UK and the US are putting their own populations first when it comes to offering vaccines.
In a video address, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the planet faces a “catastrophic moral failure” because wealthier countries are focusing on their own people, rather than those in poorer countries.
We have the means to achieve #VaccinEquity, but the gap between the number of vaccines administered in rich countries versus #COVAX is growing every single day and becoming more grotesque. We appeal to countries to share #COVID19 vaccines out of self-interest, if nothing else! pic.twitter.com/TwSPqAmpLx
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 23, 2021
Tedros called it “shocking” that nations have signed contracts with vaccine manufacturers for their own people, with the UK leading the way, having vaccinated half its population in a matter of months.
The US has said that it will focus on vaccinating its own population, then look to help other countries afterwards.
“We have the means to avert this failure but it’s shocking how little has been done to avert it,” complained the WHO chief.
“The gap between the number of vaccines administered in rich countries and the number of vaccines administered through COVAX is growing every single day and becoming more grotesque every day,” he added, referring to the WHO’s global vaccine coalition with UNICEF, Gavi, and the Vaccine Alliance.
“Countries that are now vaccinating younger, healthy 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,” Tedros stated, adding “The world’s poorest countries wonder whether rich countries really mean what they say when they talk about solidarity.”
He continued that the situation is not just “a moral outrage” but also “economically and epidemiologically self-defeating”.
“As long as the virus continues to circulate everywhere — anywhere — people will continue to die,” he said, warning “Trade and travel will continue to be disrupted and the economic recovery will be further delayed.”
“If countries won’t share vaccines for the right reasons, we appeal to do them to do it out of self-interest,” Tedros emphasised, promising that things will not return to normal anywhere as long as the virus remains a risk in poor countries.
Tedros previously suggested that coronavirus restrictions will continue even after a vaccine has been made widely available.
Since the beginning of the #COVID19 pandemic, we knew that a vaccine would be essential for bringing the pandemic under control. But it’s important to emphasise that a vaccine will complement the other tools we have, not replace them. #EB147 #ACTogether
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 16, 2020
He went on to add that quarantines, surveillance, contact tracing and other measures would all be continued even after vaccine uptake becomes widespread.