The World Health Organization chief on Friday urged countries that are considering vaccinating children and adolescents to instead give their doses to the COVAX initiative aimed at equitable access to jabs.
“I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents. But right now, I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to COVAX,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus at a twice-weekly webinar on COVID-19.
“Because in low and lower middle income countries, vaccine supply has not been enough even to immunize health and care workers and hospitals are being inundated with people that need life-saving care, urgently,” said Tedros.
COVAX or COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to pandemic vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the WHO.
“At present, only 0.3% of vaccine supply is going to low-income countries,” said the WHO chief.
“Trickle-down vaccination is not an effective strategy for fighting a deadly respiratory virus.”
In September, Tedros said the WHO warned about the threat of “vaccine nationalism,” and some people said it was alarmist when he later spoke about the potential unfolding of a “moral catastrophe.”
“Unfortunately, we’re now witnessing this play out in a handful of rich countries,” said Tedros, explaining that they have the majority of the vaccine supply, and lower-risk groups are now being vaccinated.
Tedros said when he was vaccinated this week that his thoughts were on health workers worldwide who have been fighting the pandemic for more than a year.
“The fact that so many are still not protected is a sad reflection on the gross distortion in access to vaccines across the globe.”
Tedros warned: “We’re on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first.”
India remains hugely concerning for the WHO, with several states continuing to see a disturbing number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
WHO has responded by shipping thousands of oxygen concentrators, tents for mobile field hospitals, masks, and other medical supplies.
As of May 14, WHO had reported almost 3.34 million deaths and more than 161 million cases of COVID-19 with more than 1.26 billion vaccine doses administered.