190 countries now on Covid-19 vaccination

One hundred and ninety countries in the world are already vaccinating their populations against Covid-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tuesday.

At the start of the year, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made a call for every country to start vaccinating health workers and the elderly in the first 100 days of 2021 and this week will mark the hundredth day.

Briefing the media on Covid-19, Tuesday, Ghebreyesus said while milestones had been realised there was still a need to do more in ensuring vaccines are delivered to all corners of the world.

“This week will mark the hundredth day and 190 countries and economies have now started vaccination,” said Ghebreyesus.

“COVAX itself has already delivered 36 million doses to 86 countries and economies. Supply chains are up and running and health systems primed. Scaling up production and equitable distribution remains the major barrier to ending the acute stage of this pandemic.”

He said it is a travesty that in some countries health workers and those at-risk groups remained completely unvaccinated.

“The effort to achieve vaccine equity will not stop this week,” said Ghebreyesus.

“WHO will continue to call on governments to share vaccine doses and fill the US$22.1 billion gap in the ACT Accelerator for the equitable distribution of vaccines, rapid tests and therapeutics. We will also look to find new ways to work with manufacturers to boost overall vaccine production. This month, individuals around the world will also be able to get involved in accelerating vaccine equity, via a new fundraising campaign.”

He explained: “Developed by the WHO Foundation and a range of partners, the campaign will enable individuals and companies to get one, give one, and close the overall Covid-19 vaccine gap. Further updates will be shared around the launch.”

The WHO chief said it was regrettable that at least half of the world’s population still lacked access to essential health services and that out of pocket expenses on health drive almost 100 million people into poverty each year.

“As countries move forward post Covid-19, it will be vital to avoid cuts in public spending on health and other social sectors,” he said.

“Such cuts are likely to increase hardship among already disadvantaged groups. They will weaken health system performance, increase health risks, add to fiscal pressure in the future and undermine development gains. Instead, governments should meet WHO’s recommended target of spending an additional 1 percent of GDP on primary health care, which is central to improving both equity and efficiency.”

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