The Covid pandemic “will go on for a year longer than necessary” because the poorest countries are not receiving the vaccines they need, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO senior leader, said this means that the Covid crisis could “easily drag deep into 2022”.
Less than 5% of the African population has been vaccinated, compared with 40% on most other continents.
The UK has delivered more than 10 million vaccines to countries in need.
He promised a total of 100 million.
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Dr Aylward appealed to rich countries to give up their seats in line for vaccines so that pharmaceutical companies can instead prioritize lower-income countries.
He said rich countries need to “take stock” of where they stand with their donation pledges made at summits like the G7 meeting in St Ives this summer.
“I can tell you we’re not on the right track,” he said. “Do we really need to accelerate or you know what? This pandemic will go on for a year longer than necessary.”
The People’s Vaccine – an alliance of charities – has released new data that only one in seven of the doses promised by drug companies and rich countries are actually reaching their destinations in poorer countries.
The vast majority of Covid vaccines have been administered in high-income or upper-middle-income countries. Africa accounts for only 2.6% of the doses administered globally.
The group of charities, which includes Oxfam and UNAids, also criticized Canada and the UK for procuring vaccines for their populations through Covax, the UN-backed global program to distribute vaccines fairly.
Official figures show that the UK received 539,370 doses of Pfizer earlier this year while Canada took just under a million doses of AstraZeneca.
The original idea behind Covax was that all countries would be able to acquire vaccines from its pool, including rich ones. But most of the G7 countries decided to hold back once they started making their own one-to-one deals with pharmaceutical companies.
Oxfam’s global health adviser Rohit Malpani acknowledged that Canada and the UK technically had the right to obtain vaccines through this route after paying for the Covax mechanism, but said it was still “morally indefensible” given that both had obtained millions of doses through their own bilateral agreements.
“They shouldn’t have acquired these doses from Covax,” he said. “It’s nothing better than double dipping and it means that poorer countries that are already at the bottom of the queue will end up waiting longer.”
The UK government pointed out that it was one of the countries that had “started” Covax last year with a donation of 548 million pounds.
The Canadian government was keen to point out that it has now stopped using Covax vaccines.
The country’s international development minister, Karina Gould, said: “As soon as it became clear that the supply we had secured through our bilateral agreements would be sufficient for the Canadian population, we moved the doses we had procured from Covax. to Covax, so that they can be redistributed to developing countries. ”
Covax originally aimed to deliver two billion doses of vaccines by the end of this year, but has so far shipped 371 million doses.
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