Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, says the organisation had secured two billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with a billion more in the pipeline and deliveries expected to begin next month.
He made the remarks as he addressed a meeting of the Committee on the functioning of the International Health Regulations, 2005, during the COVID-19 response, posted on the WHO website,
Ghebreyesus said ensuring that countries would have access to any COVID-19 vaccines, was the promise of a global mechanism established last April, known as the COVAX Facility.
“The vaccines should be administered in every country as a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges,’’ Ghebreyesus said
“Even as they speak the language of equitable access, some countries and companies continue to prioritise bilateral deals, going around COVAX, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue. This is wrong”, he said.
Additionally, he said, most manufacturers had also prioritised regulatory approval in rich countries, where profits are higher, rather than submitting their dossiers to WHO for pre-qualification.
“This could delay COVAX deliveries and create exactly the scenario COVAX was designed to avoid, with hoarding, a chaotic market, an uncoordinated response, and continued social and economic disruptions.
“Not only does this me-first approach leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk, it’s also self-defeating”, the WHO DG added.
Underlining that vaccine equity also has economic benefits, Ghebreyesus urged countries to “work together in solidarity” to ensure inoculation of all health workers, and older people at most risk worldwide is underway, within the first 100 days of the year.
He pressed for action in three areas to “change the rules of the game”, starting with an appeal for transparency in any bilateral contracts between countries and COVAX, including on volumes, pricing and delivery dates.