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Vaccines leaving behind poor countries in the Covid-19 fight: WHO

The roll-out of vaccines programmes by developed countries is leaving behind poor countries in the fight against Covid-19 at a time when global infections have reached 100 million people, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

A number of countries such as the United States of America, United Kingdom, India, China and many other rich countries across the world are already vaccinating their populations against the coronavirus, with priority being given to health workers.

In Africa, South Africa received its first consignment of the jabs from India on Monday.

Addressing the Form of Small States Wednesday, WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said while the development of vaccines was a great success, the world must not let their introduction deepen already existing inequalities among countries in the battle against the pandemic.

“The challenge we face now is to ensure that vaccines, as well as diagnostics and life-saving therapies, are a source of hope for all, not hope for some,” said Ghebreyesus.

“We now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to those in wealthy countries, much of the world could be left behind. Over ninety-four percent of countries vaccinating so far are high- or upper-middle-income countries. Seventy-five percent of doses have been deployed in only ten countries.

He called for collaboration among countries.

“We must work together, across borders and regions, to prioritise those most at risk, in all countries,” he emphasized.

“Every country must do its part. But as things stand now, with every day that passes, the divide grows larger. Even as the first vaccines begin to be deployed around the world, the promise of equitable access is at serious risk.

Ghebreyesus noted that in April of last year, WHO joined forces with Gavi, the Global Fund, CEPI and many other partners to launch the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, including the COVAX vaccines pillar, adding the aim was to develop vaccines, tests and treatments fast, and to distribute them fairly.

“Vaccine equity is not just a moral issue,” he said.

“Covid-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time. Ending this pandemic means we must stand in solidarity with each other. We have seen the power of collective action with the SIDS Pooled Procurement Agreement, with nations working together to access medicines and vaccines for their populations.

He added: “Now, every country, large or small, must unite to take on the Covid-19 pandemic, better prepare for future emergencies, and organise to ensure that essential health services remain available to those who need them.”

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