The head of the World Health Organization is calling on wealthy, developed nations like the United States to donate doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to poorer, developing countries instead of vaccinating children and teenagers, Forbes reports.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during remarks to the press on Friday that "The fact that so many are still not protected is a sad reflection on the gross distortion in access to vaccines across the globe."
Tedros said, "In January, I spoke about the potential unfolding of a moral catastrophe. Unfortunately, we are now witnessing this play out."
He noted that "In a handful of rich countries, which bought up the majority of the vaccine supply, lower risk groups are now being vaccinated.
"I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to COVAX," the WHO’s vaccine-sharing program.
"Because in low and lower-middle income countries, vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunize health and care workers, and hospitals are being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently," Tedros continued.
"At present, only 0.3% of vaccine supply is going to low-income countries," he said. "Trickle down vaccination is not an effective strategy for fighting a deadly respiratory virus."
Tedros noted specifically that "India remains hugely concerning, with several states continuing to see a worrying number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths," and said that the "WHO is responding and has shipped thousands of oxygen concentrators, tents for mobile field hospitals, masks, and other medical supplies. And we thank all the stakeholders who are supporting India."
But he added that "it’s not only India that has emergency needs. Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Egypt are just some of the countries that are dealing with spikes in cases and hospitalizations."
Also, "some countries in the Americas still have high numbers of cases and as a region, the Americas accounted for 40% of all COVID-19 deaths last week. There are also spikes in some countries in Africa."
Tedros concluded that "Saving lives and livelihoods with a combination of public health measures and vaccination — not one or the other — is the only way out of the pandemic.
Vaccine supply remains a key challenge, but this week I have been pleased to see leaders and manufacturers working to address some of these issues.
"First, there have been a number of new country announcements about sharing vaccines with COVAX, which is the fastest way to ensure equitable rollout of vaccines. Second, new deals involving tech-transfer and sharing of know-how between international manufacturers to scale up vaccine production have been announced. And third, leaders including the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, have called for all trade barriers to be lifted as soon as possible. Muchas gracias."
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