World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday called for a global initiative to vaccinate at least 10% of the population of every country by September. He added that the coronavirus pandemic can end only when everyone is vaccinated.
Speaking at the India Global Forum, Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world’s focus must be on vaccinating at least 40% of the population of every country by the end of 2021, and at least 70% by mid-2022.
“Until we end the pandemic everywhere, we will not end it anywhere,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the virtual event. “When some countries cannot vaccinate [their citizens], it’s a threat to all countries.”
The WHO chief said that inequitable access to Covid-19 vaccines was giving rise to a “two-track” pandemic. “While some countries have reached a high level of coverage, many others don’t have enough to vaccinate health workers, older people and other at-risk groups,” he added.
Adhanom Ghebreyesus added that ensuring equitable access to vaccines across countries was the best way to control the pandemic and restart the global economy.
On Wednesday, the WHO had announced the formation of a task force on Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for developing countries, together with the World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.
The WHO said the task force would be a “war room to help track, coordinate and advance delivery of COVID-19 health tools to developing countries and to mobilise relevant stakeholders and national leaders to remove critical roadblocks”.
After its first meeting on Wednesday, the task force urged G20 countries to immediately share more vaccine doses with others.
“As many countries are struggling with new variants and a third wave of COVID-19 infections, accelerating access to vaccines becomes even more critical,” the international organisations said. “Urgent action is needed now to arrest the rising human toll due to the pandemic, and to halt further divergence in the economic recovery between advanced economies and the rest.”
Last week, the WHO had criticised rich countries for their reluctance in sharing Covid-19 vaccines with low-income ones.
“Those who are getting vaccines are getting better significantly and they are opening up their societies,” he had said. “Those who don’t have vaccines are facing serious Covid situation, with surges in cases and deaths.”
Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said that the Covid-19 situation was like the HIV/AIDS crisis, where some sides expressed doubts that poorer countries won’t be able to utilise complicated treatments and used that as a pretext not to share therapeutics with them.
Globally, the coronavirus disease has infected over 18.21 crore people and killed more than 39.45 lakh since the pandemic broke out in December 2019, according to Johns Hopkins University.