By Haruna Gimba
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said about 42 countries are already rolling out the various COVID-19 vaccines which have been cleared for use.
WHO’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, who made this known during COVID-19 news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva, said 36 are in high income nations.
In series of tweets posted on the United Nations health agency twitter account @WHO, Ghebreyesus emphasised equitable distribution of the vaccines.
He said there’s a clear problem that low and most middle income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet, “we can and must solve this problem together through COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator.”
COVAX – set up in April 2020 by WHO, GAVI, the vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), are part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to provide COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to all, regardless of their ability to pay.
According to the WHO boss, two billion doses of ‘safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines’ have been secured by the international equitable vaccine alliance — COVAX, which will be ready for distribution as soon as delivered.
“And we also have the right of first refusal on an additional one billion doses,” the director general said
He noted that rich countries had bought most of the supply so far, while middle and high income countries were still making bilateral deals.
He said it was apparent that even within the alliance, middle and high income countries were making bilateral deals, potentially bumping up the price for everyone, leaving vaccines out of reach for the poorest and most marginalised nations.
“Vaccine nationalism hurts us all and this is self-defeating,” he added.
Vaccine nationalism is when a country manages to secure doses of vaccines for its own citizens and prioritises its own domestic markets before they are made available in other countries.
This is done through pre-purchase agreements between a government and a vaccine manufacturer.
“We are ready. COVAX is ready. Countries are ready,” he said.