WHO urges rich countries to stop jumping Covid-19 vaccine queue

Wealthier nations had snapped up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (AFP) - The World Health Organisation on Friday (Jan 8) urged rich countries to stop jumping the queue and making bilateral deals for the first wave of Covid-19 vaccines.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that right from the outset, wealthier nations had snapped up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines - potentially bumping up the price for everyone else battling the coronavirus pandemic.

He called on states that have booked excess vaccine doses to release them and donate them to the globally-shared Covax programme, which aims to distribute vaccines equitably around the world.

"I urge countries that have contracted more vaccines than they will need, and are controlling the global supply, to also donate and release them to Covax immediately, which is ready today to roll out quickly," Tedros told a press conference in Geneva.

"And I urge countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of Covax."

No country was exceptional and should cut the queue and vaccinate all their population while some remain with no supply of the vaccine, he said.

"Science has delivered; let's not waste the opportunity to protect lives of those most at risk and ensure all economies have a fair shot at recovery."

Tedros said 42 countries had started rolling out their Covid-19 vaccination programme. He said 36 of them were high-income nations and six were middle-income.

"There's a clear problem that low- and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet.

"At the outset, rich countries have bought up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines."

Covax, the globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort, has struck agreements for two billion vaccine doses.

Covax aims to secure vaccines for 20 per cent of the population in each participating country by the end of the year, with funding covered for the 92 lower- and lower-middle income economies involved in the scheme.

It is co-led by the WHO, the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

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