By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have expressed dismay that about 130 countries were yet to receive a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
A joint statement issued by UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, and WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in New York and Geneva respectively, yesterday said only 10 countries account for more than three quarters of the vaccines so far administered.
In the statement titled: ‘In the COVID-19 vaccine race, we either win together or lose together’, the UN bodies said: “Of the 128 million vaccine doses administered so far, more than three quarters of those vaccinations are in just 10 countries that account for 60 percent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“As of today, almost 130 countries with 2.5 billion people are yet to administer a single dose.
“This self-defeating strategy will cost lives and livelihoods; give the virus further opportunity to mutate and evade vaccines, and will undermine a global economic recovery.”
The statement said WHO and UNICEF are urging world leaders to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in order to help put an end to the ravaging pandemic.
“Today, UNICEF and WHO-partners for more than 70 years-call on leaders to look beyond their borders and employ a vaccine strategy that can actually end the pandemic and limit variants.
“Health workers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic in lower-and middle-income settings, and should be protected first so that they can protect us.
“COVAX participating countries are preparing to receive and use vaccines. Health workers have been trained, and cold chain systems primed. What’s missing is the equitable supply of vaccines.
“To ensure that vaccine rollouts begin in all countries in the first 100 days of 2021, it is imperative that governments that have vaccinated their own health workers and populations at highest risk of severe disease share vaccines through COVAX so that other countries can do the same,” the agencies said.
They also urged various governments to ensure that Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator, and its vaccines pillar COVAX, is fully funded so that financing and technical support is available to lower- and middle-income countries for deploying and administering vaccines.
“If fully funded, the ACT accelerator could return up to US$ 166 for every dollar invested.
“Vaccine manufacturers allocate the limited vaccine supply equitably; share safety, efficacy and manufacturing data as a priority with WHO for regulatory and policy review; step up and maximise production, and transfer technology to other manufacturers who can help scale the global supply.
“We need global leadership to scale up vaccine production and achieve vaccine equity.
“COVID-19 has shown that our fates are inextricably linked. Whether we win or lose, we will do so together,” they stated.