The world’s poorest and most vulnerable must not be “trampled in the stampede” for Covid-19 vaccines, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference on Monday the question was “not whether the world can afford to share, but whether it can afford not to”.
He said the promising results from vaccine trials meant that “the light at the end of this long dark tunnel is growing brighter”. But he is concerned that wealthier countries will buy up available stocks of successful vaccines, leaving poorer nations empty handed.
He urged more countries to join the global vaccine sharing scheme that WHO helped to create known as Covax, which he said 187 countries have signed up to.
Covax aims to deliver two billion vaccine doses around the world by the end of 2021, but it is struggling to raise the funds needed to distribute supplies to more than 90 low-income countries.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging Covax to start talks immediately with producers.
“I am concerned that there are no negotiations,” Merkel told journalists on Sunday after the G20 summit, at which leaders of the 20 biggest economies vowed to spare no effort to supply Covid-19 drugs, tests and vaccines to the world affordably and fairly.
Merkel said that, unlike Covax, the European Union and the US were already advanced in their efforts to secure vaccine doses. “The most important thing is that Covax now negotiates with producers of vaccines with the money it already has.”