Health Care

WHO chief calls for vaccine makers to donate half of all new supply to COVAX

Coronavirus vaccine manufacturers should donate half of all the doses they will make this year to COVAX, the global initiative to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, according to the head of the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters Monday that companies should give COVAX the “first right of refusal on new volume of vaccines, or to commit 50 percent of their volumes to COVAX this year.”

Wealthy nations like the U.S. have come under pressure to share the vaccine doses they have been stockpiling with the rest of the world. The U.S., in particular, already has enough doses to vaccinate the entire population, leaving poor countries with minimal resources.

“The biggest barrier to ending the pandemic remains sharing: of doses, of resources, of technology,” Tedros said.

More than 2.1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered globally in the past six months. But high-income countries have administered almost 44 percent of the world’s doses, while low-income countries have administered just 0.4 percent.

“The most frustrating thing about this statistic is that it hasn’t changed in months. Inequitable vaccination is a threat to all nations, not just those with the fewest vaccines,” Tedros said. 

Tedros said COVAX “is the best way to distribute vaccines quickly and equitably,” but the organization is struggling to reach its goal of vaccinating 30 percent of the global eligible population, especially after the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, suspended exports.

The organization needs 100 million doses just in June and July, plus an additional 250 million doses by September. Tedros called on leaders of the Group of Seven countries to commit to sharing doses immediately for June and July.

Deaths have dropped globally over the past five weeks, and the number of new cases reported to the WHO has declined for six weeks. But most of the improvement has come in wealthier countries. 

The number of deaths reported last week increased in Africa, the Americas and the Western Pacific.

“Increasingly, we see a two-track pandemic: many countries still face an extremely dangerous situation, while some of those with the highest vaccination rates are starting to talk about ending restrictions,” Tedros said. 

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 vaccines World Health Organization

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