As the United States prepares to deliver Covid booster shots to tens of millions of people, World Health Organization officials continue to sound the alarm bells over the disparity in access to healthcare. vaccines around the world, with the poorest countries in the world struggling to get even a first dose in their guns from citizens.
Gordon Brown, the former British Prime Minister who is now the WHO Ambassador for Global Health Funding, said on Thursday 500 million doses were missing in the South, while 240 million doses were unused West. The number of excess doses is expected to reach 600 million by the end of the year, Brown added.
Mr Brown spoke on the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved booster shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines for tens of millions of people in the United States.
In Africa, meanwhile, only nine countries had reached the goal of vaccinating 10% of their population against Covid-19 by the end of September, the WHO reported.
“Rich countries must ditch the reserved doses and cede their place in the queue, allowing Covax and the African Union to buy the vaccines that the continent is seeking and is ready to fund,” wrote Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. in a guest essay by The Times last month, referring to the United Nations-backed program to vaccinate the world against the coronavirus.
“Africa and other parts of the world need these vaccines. Now, “she added.
Mr Brown called for military airlifts to help deliver unused doses to low-income countries, especially around 100 million doses that had an expiration date before December and would otherwise end up being destroyed.
“We’re talking waste on a colossal scale if we don’t do anything about it,” Mr Brown said in an interview with BBC Newsnight Thursday.
He and other health officials argue that low inoculation rates around the world could undermine progress against the pandemic by creating room for the virus to mutate and spread.
“You can’t solve this problem without vaccinating the whole world, not half of the world,” Mr. Brown said.
The WHO estimates that 11 billion doses of the Covid vaccine are needed globally to turn the tide of the pandemic, but so far production and distribution has been concentrated in Western countries.
Last month, Covax lowered its forecast for the number of doses expected this year, further undermining a program that has been besieged by production problems, export bans and the hoarding of vaccines by rich countries.
According to government figures compiled by the University of Oxford’s World in Data project, around 77% of injections administered globally were in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Only about 0.5 percent of doses were given in low-income countries. Africa is the region with the lowest vaccination rate, with less than 8 percent of the population vaccinated.
The Biden administration said it could provide boosters to tens of millions of Americans while donating vaccines to poorer countries. On Thursday, the White House announced that it had delivered more than 200 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to more than 100 countries, the most countries in the world, according to the State Department.
“Doing more than everyone else shouldn’t be the bar,” said Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian / Columbia University Medical Center. “It’s just not enough. “