The number of people who have received a COVID-19
vaccination now exceeds those reportedly infected, the head
of the UN’s health agency said on Friday, while warning
that after inoculating their own health workers and older
people, countries must share doses with others, to eradicate
the deadly coronavirus.
“In one sense,
that’s good news, and a remarkable achievement in such a
short timeframe”, World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom
journalists at a regular press briefing in
However, he noted that “more than three
quarters of those vaccinations are in just 10 countries that
account for almost 60 per cent of global GDP”.
amounts to 130 countries, with 2.5 billion people, that have
yet to administer a single dose.
Against the backdrop that some countries have
even vaccinated some lower-risk populations, Tedros
recognized that while all governments have an obligation to
protect their own people, after inoculating their health
workers and older people, “the best way to protect the
rest of their own population is to share vaccines so other
countries can do the same”.
“Unless we suppress
the virus everywhere, we could end up back at square one”,
cautioned the WHO chief.
Wanted: A massive production
On Wednesday, the UN-led coronavirus
vaccine initiative COVAX published its distribution forecast
for participating States.
Noting that “countries are
ready to go, but the vaccines aren’t there”, Tedros
again underscored the need for nations to share
“But we also need a massive scale-up in
production”, he said.
Drawing attention to French
pharmaceutical giant Sanofi’s announcement last week to
make its manufacturing infrastructure available to produce
the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, he called on other companies to
follow their example.
“Companies can also issue
non-exclusive licenses to allow other producers to
manufacture their vaccine – a mechanism that has been used
before to expand access to treatments for HIV and hepatitis
C”, said the WHO chief.
Having received substantial
public funding, he stressed that “manufacturers can do
“We encourage all manufacturers to share
their data and technology to ensure global equitable access
to vaccines”, Tedros said.
The WHO chief also called
on companies to “share their dossiers” with the UN
health agency faster and more fully than they have been
doing, “so we can review them for emergency use