COVID-19: UN chief calls vaccine inequity immoral and stupid

GENEVA | The UN chief described this Thursday as immoral and stupid the hoarding of anti-COVID-19 vaccines by rich countries, ensuring that this leaves the field open to the appearance of new potentially dangerous variants.

Inequality of access to vaccines “is the best ally of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Antonio Guterres, in a joint press conference with the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“It allows the variants to develop freely, condemning the world to millions more deaths and prolonging the economic recession,” he added.

In addition, he continued, “not having an equitable distribution of vaccines is not only immoral, it is also stupid.”

Earlier this year, the WHO requested that each country vaccinate 10% of its population by the end of September. “56 countries did not do this, through no fault of their own,” but because of a lack of vaccines, Dr. Tedros said.

The WHO now wants 40% of the population in each country to be vaccinated by the end of the year and 70% by mid-2022.

“Reaching these goals will require at least 11 billion doses of vaccine. It is not a question of supply, but of distribution ”, explained Dr. Tedros.

“By the end of September, around 6.5 billion doses had already been administered worldwide. With global vaccine production now reaching nearly 1.5 billion doses per month, the supply is sufficient to meet our goals, provided they are equitably distributed, ”he continued.

“We can reach 40% of the population in all countries by the end of the year, if we can mobilize about $ 8 billion to ensure equitable distribution,” Guterres said, without specifying how these funds would be used.

To get at least the 11 billion doses required, the WHO is asking manufacturers to transfer technology and promote the international Covax system and the African Fund for Vaccine Acquisition (Avat) created by the African Union.

It also calls on countries to share doses and to immunize health workers and vulnerable and elderly people first, before vaccinating adults as a whole and then adolescents.

Dr. Tedros also indicated that the WHO had just finalized a definition of what is commonly known as “prolonged COVID,” the most common symptoms of which include fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive dysfunction. By this definition, symptoms must last for at least two months and cannot be explained by anything else, he said.

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