The World Health Organisation (WHO) has appealed to developed countries to donate 250 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to protect the frontline workers and most vulnerable people in low-income countries.
The UN health agency said two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been distributed globally, but only 0.5 per cent had reached low-income countries where frontline health workers and the elderly have yet to receive a shot.
Dr Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor to Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, said that of those two billion doses, “over 75 per cent” had gone to just 10 countries, notably China, U.S and India.
”This trio account for about 60 per cent of those doses,” said Aylward, also Head of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Hub, speaking via Zoom.
He said: “At the other end of that spectrum, only about 0.5 per cent of doses had reached the lowest income countries, which account for about 10 per cent of world population.
“This had led increasingly to a two-track recovery, characterised by the successful rollout of vaccines to high-risk populations and even younger populations in higher income and vaccine-producing countries.
“By contrast, in the lower income countries, they’re still struggling to get sufficient product, just to be able to vaccinate the healthcare workers.
“They are also struggling to get sufficient vaccine for older populations, who are really the key to getting out of the health, societal and economic crisis that we’re in the midst of.’’
Aylward, therefore, made an urgent appeal for 250 million doses to protect the frontline workers and the most vulnerable people.
“The call is for a quarter of a billion doses through the period through end of September to be donated, at least 100 million of those in June and July – that’s what we need to get the system going.”
He noted that on Thursday the U.S. had helped to kick start the appeal and bolster the UN-partnered equitable vaccine distribution scheme COVAX with the announcement that it intended to donate up to 80 million doses, including an initial 25 million shots, this month.
“That’s an important start, but we need many other countries to be joining, and important for the U.S., crucially, is they said these doses are going to come in June.
“It was absolutely ridiculous that some countries were still unable to protect their key workers amid escalating epidemics, though vaccines had been available for six months.
“This week, we’ll probably pass the two billion doses – if we have not already passed it…in terms of number of doses of these vaccines, these new COVID vaccines that have actually been developed.
“And these have been distributed now in over 212 countries,” Aylward said.
Briefing reporters in New York on Friday, the UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, welcomed the announcement made by Joe Biden administration that it would be sharing millions of vaccine doses with both the COVAX facility as well as bilaterally with countries in particular need.
He said UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, was extremely grateful to the U.S. Government for the inclusion of UN personnel and Member States delegates serving in the US, in its national vaccination programme.
“The secretary-general is grateful to U.S. for the generous offer to provide vaccines for UN frontline personnel serving in the most challenging and dangerous locations around the world.
“The Secretary-General renews his call to the international community to come together to address the unprecedented challenge of this pandemic
“Also, for countries to share vaccines, particularly with those that are struggling to cope with new surges and variants,” he said. (NAN)