Poor countries across the world have received a total of 25 coronavirus vaccines combined, meanwhile richer nations have hoarded 39 million vaccine dosages, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The director general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the inequality of the distribution in the COVID-19 vaccine will only serve to prolong the pandemic.
“It’s not right that younger healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries,” he told an annual meeting of the WHO’s executive board on Monday.
“More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries. Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country. Not 25 million; not 25,000; just 25,” he said.
A global initiative, COVAX, was formed nine months ago to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country. The organisation has managed to secure two billion doses from five producers, with options to receive more than a billion more doses.
But Tedros said plans to start vaccine deliveries in February to many of the world’s poorer countries is now at risk. He said he fears a number of high-income countries may backtrack on their promises of equitable distribution.
“I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure—and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries,” he said.