WHO Warns of ‘Catastrophic Moral Failure’ Over COVID-19 Vaccine Inequity

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines between wealthy countries and poor countries places the world “on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure.”

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines between wealthy countries and poor countries places the world “on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure.”

“The price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries,” Tedros warned at an annual meeting of WHO’s executive board on Jan. 18.

According to Tedros, at least 49 higher-income countries have administered 39 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines while one lowest-income country administered only 25 doses, referring to Guinea in West Africa that distributed the Russian Sputnik V vaccine to 25 people, including its president.

“Not 25 million, not 25,000. Just 25,” Tedros stressed.

“It’s not right that younger healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries,” Tedros also said.

Tedros said that the vaccine delivery plans for several poor countries through global initiative COVAX starting on February is now at risk as high-income countries are signing deals with vaccine manufacturers on their own to secure and hoard limited supplies of the vaccine.

Tedros described the approach as “me-first” and said that it is self-defeating because it would increase the prices of the vaccines and encourage hoarding.

“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 disruption,” Tedros said, accusing wealthy countries of “going around COVAX, driving up the prices, and attempting to jump to the front of the queue.”

“Ultimately these actions will only prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering, Tedros also warned.


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