As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hold the world in its grip, WHO has lashed out at the “wealthy nations” for stockpiling vaccines, treatment and protective equipment as well as failing to distribute the much needed resources. Widespread global access to COVID-19 vaccines is key to achieving global population immunity and controlling the pandemic.
On August 4, the World Health Organization had asked the wealthy nations to stop distributing COVID boosters for at least two months. It had requested them to reroute their surpluses to poorer countries in an effort to vaccinate 10% of the population of every country by the end of September.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID, described it as immoral. “This is not just unfair, it’s not just immoral, its prolonging the pandemic. And it is resulting in people dying.” There is no denial that access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for the coronavirus is a major challenge for many countries. Experts believe this challenge should be confronted by collaborating with vaccine developers, pooled of COVID-19 therapeutics, and local development of testing and diagnostic materials.
Earlier this year, a report by the World Bank had highlighted lack of vaccine preparedness in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs), meaning that they are unprepared to begin large-scale efforts to vaccinate their populations. “Ultimately, we find that without redistribution of doses already purchased by high-income countries – through donations or other means, and or increased support for manufacturing or production of additional doses, more than four in ten adults in the world will not be able to be vaccinated, that is even after allocating all COVAX doses to LMICs,” the report stated.
The analysis established that high-income countries have purchased 54% of global vaccine doses (4.6 billion doses), while LMICs, which make up 81% of the global adult population, have purchased just 33% of the doses; COVAX has purchased the remaining 13% of the vaccine doses. When the researchers analyzed the potential vaccine coverage rates by income level, they found that enough vaccination has been purchased to cover more than 80% of the global adult population. However, high-income countries have ordered enough doses to vaccinate more than twice their adult populations (245%), whereas LMICs can cover only one-third of theirs.
According to the United Nations, the US has fully immunized 53% of its population, and has given booster shots to more than 1.3 million people; the European Union has fully inoculated 57% of its population and is administering booster doses in France and the United Kingdom. And by comparison, Africa had fully vaccinated just 3% of its population against the COVID-19. WHO said almost 80% of Africa’s countries will be unable to vaccinate the 10% of their populations most susceptible to severe COVID symptoms by the end of the month.