Vax inequity catastrophic moral failure: WHO

A top World Health Organization official said that the “inequitable” distribution of vaccines against Covid-19 was a “catastrophic moral failure” and a “failed opportunity”.

Speaking at a virtual press conference here on Monday about the recent rise of cases in Europe, which was up by 12 per cent in the last week, Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, stressed that there was no “golden solution” to end the pandemic.

He said that many countries have the strategy to “get enough vaccine” and “push enough vaccine to people”, assuming that the pandemic would be shaken off with vaccine rollouts, reports Xinhua news agency.

“I’m sorry, it’s not (the case)… There aren’t enough vaccines in the world, and they’re distributed terribly iniquitously.

“In fact, we’ve missed a huge opportunity to bring vaccines on board as a comprehensive measure.

“It’s not only a catastrophic moral failure, but it’s (also) an epidemiologic failure,” Ryan said.

Global infections rose up in the last week. Among the most affected places was South Asia, which saw a surge of 49 per cent in the number of cases, with India taking the bulk of the rise.

Another hotspot was Western Pacific, with the Philippines and Papua New Guinea accounting for most of the 29 percent increase.

Also addressing the same conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the gap in vaccine procurement between richer and poorer countries “is growing every single day”.

“In January, I said that the world was on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure unless urgent steps were taken to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines. We have the means to avert this failure, but it’s shocking how little has been done to avert it,” he said.

“The world’s poorest countries wonder whether rich countries really mean what they say when they talk about solidarity… Some countries are racing to vaccinate their entire populations while other countries have nothing. This may buy short-term security, but it’s a false sense of security.”

He appealed to high-income countries to share vaccine doses through COVAX, an international vaccine campaign led by WHO and partners, while urging manufacturers to increase the production and equitable distribution of vaccines.