Ghebreyesus “disappointed” as rich countries stockpile COVID-19 vaccines while others struggle to administer first doses.
The head of the World Health Organization on Monday called for a two-month moratorium on the administration of COVID-19 vaccine boosters as a way to reduce global vaccine inequalities and prevent new ones from emerging coronavirus variants.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Hungary’s capital Budapest he was “really disappointed” with the scale of vaccine donations around the world as many countries struggle to provide first and second doses to more than a small fraction of their population, while being richer. nations maintain growing stocks of vaccines.
Tedros called on countries offering third doses of vaccine “to share what can be used for boosters with other countries so they can increase their first and second immunization coverage.”
Several countries including the United States, Israel and Hungary, as well as others in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, are already offering or are considering offering their populations COVID-19 reminders.
In early August, Hungary became the first country in the 27-member European Union to allow residents to sign up for a third dose, and more than 187,000 people have received a booster so far, according to government statistics.
Last week, U.S. health officials announced plans to distribute COVID-19 boosters to all Americans in a bid to bolster protection against an increase in cases attributed to the delta variant and signs that vaccines are effective. decreases.
Yet the United Nations health agency has repeatedly called on rich countries to do more to help improve access to vaccines in developing countries.
On Monday, Tedros said that of the 4.8 billion doses of vaccine delivered globally so far, 75 percent have gone to just 10 countries while immunization coverage in Africa is less than 2 percent.
“Vaccine injustice and vaccine nationalism” increase the risk of the emergence of more contagious variants, Tedros said.
“The virus will have the chance to circulate in countries with low vaccination coverage, and the Delta variant could evolve to become more virulent, and at the same time more potent variants could also emerge,” he said.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told the press conference that Hungary had 8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in stock and the central European country had donated more than 1.5 million doses to other countries.
Tedros thanked Hungary for making the donations, adding that “we hope you do more, because no one is safe until everyone is safe”.