The COVID-19 Delta variant is travelling around
the world at a “scorching pace” driving a new spike in
cases and deaths, but it’s exposing a ‘hugely uneven and
inequitable’ global gap in vaccine supply, the head of the
World Health Organization (WHO) said on
“We’re in the midst of a growing
two-track pandemic where the haves and have-nots within and
between countries are increasingly divergent”, underscored
Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus.
He explained that although
the Delta variant was spreading quickly in places with high
vaccination coverage, in countries with low vaccination
coverage, the situation is particularly bad.
and other highly transmissible variants are driving
catastrophic waves of cases, which are translating into high
numbers of hospitalisations and death. Even countries that
successfully managed to ward off the early waves of the
virus through public health measures alone, are now in the
midst of devastating outbreaks”, he said.
that in low-income countries, exhausted health workers are
battling to save lives among shortages of personal
protective equipment, oxygen and treatments.
Tedros explained that vaccines have
never been the way out of the crisis on their own, but the
current wave is demonstrating what a “powerful tool they
“We are experiencing a worsening public
health emergency that further threatens lives, livelihoods
and a sound global economic recovery. It is definitely worse
in places that have very few vaccines, but the pandemic is
not over, anywhere”, he highlighted.
metaphor of a forest ablaze, he reiterated that the world
needs to put out the “pandemic inferno” in a united
fashion, because hosing down just a part of it will reduce
the flames in one area, but while it’s smoldering
everywhere, “sparks will eventually travel and grow again
into a roaring furnace”.
Vaccinate the most
The WHO’s head reiterated that the
global gap in vaccine supply is hugely uneven and
“Some countries and regions are
actually ordering millions of booster doses before other
countries have had supplies to vaccinate their health
workers and most vulnerable”, he said.
He added that
data shows that vaccination offers long lasting immunity
against severe and deadly COVID-19, and instead of Moderna
and Pfizer prioritizing the supply of vaccines as boosters
to countries whose populations have relatively high
coverage, he needed them ‘to go all out’ to channel
supply to the COVAX
global initiative, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team,
and low-middle income countries.
recognized that tens of millions of donations of shots are
starting to come through, he said that they needed to come
faster, through an “all-out, no regrets accelerated
building up of new vaccine manufacturing
Calling it “enlightened self-interest” he
said that when a country shares vaccines, it is actually
“The whole world is sick and tired,
and everyone wants to open up, and ending the pandemic is
key… when we have a pandemic everywhere, the virus will
continue to circulate”.
He also said it was
“extremely disappointing” to see countries that had
vaccinated most of their population with two doses, thinking
about a third. “It actually makes no sense”, he
Tedros also explained that vaccine
sharing does not necessarily mean giving vaccines for
“I have a list of countries that say they have
money, they can pay, but there are no vaccines…The world
has the means to increase production quickly, what we lack
is global leadership”, he added.
must share licenses
The WHO Director-General said
that pharmaceutical companies must share their licenses,
know-how and technology.
“Do what AstraZeneca is
doing” he said, which started in Europe but has production
in India, Korea, Australia and Japan, with more expansion
planned, explaining that this gives COVAX the green light to
buy vaccines from additional facilities.
that thousands of people are still dying every day, and that
currently, solidarity is not working because of
“Countries vaccinating their population
are starting to say, ‘we have managed to control this, so
it is not our problem’. But I am not so sure they are out
of the woods; I don’t think they are in control because of
the Delta strain and others that may evolve…They ignore
the rest of the world and give the virus a chance of
circulating”, he warned.
Tedros said there cannot be
more talk about vaccinating low income countries in 2023
while there are the tools to help them now.
saying it again and again and we need a listening ear. This
is for your own sake and nobody is out of the woods yet. For
those with the means, it is in our hands. We can end it very
soon, because we have the tools”, he
Vaccines still working
Lindstrand, WHO Covax co-lead, explained that currently
there isn’t enough evidence pointing to a need for booster
“If you have a full course of vaccination of
any of the WHO approved vaccines, you have a good
protection”, she explained.
WHO Chief scientist, Dr.
Soumiya Swaminathan, also said that while there has been an
increase of infections in vaccinated populations, there has
not been more hospitalizations.
“There are reports
coming in that vaccinated population are having cases of
infection particularly Delta, but the majority of them are
mild. The people in the hospitals are unvaccinated”, she
Swaminathan reminded that decisions about
booster doses should be made based on data, and not “on
companies saying we need a third