WHO head: Inequity in distribution of COVID-19 vaccines grows ‘more grotesque every day’

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus WHO
Posted at 12:23 PM, Mar 23, 2021

The head of the World Health Organization on Monday criticized rich countries for adding to a growing state of global vaccine inequality, adding that some countries are attempting to vaccinate their entire populations against COVID-19 while some countries have no shots.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO, made the comments Monday during a news briefing.

“The gap between the number of vaccines administered in rich countries, and the number of vaccines administered through COVAX is growing every single day and becoming more grotesque every day,” Ghebreyesus said.

COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX, is a coalition of organizations, including the WHO that aims to deliver “ equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.”

According to Gavi, a vaccine alliance assisting with COVAX, at least 12 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been shipped to countries around the world in the past month. According to the CDC, 128 million total vaccinations have been administered in the U.S.

In his comments, Ghebreyesus pointed out that the inequitable distribution of vaccines harms the entire world, as the virus knows no borders and the pandemic continues to cause major slowdowns to the global economy.

“Countries that are now vaccinating younger, healthy people at low risk of disease are doing so at the cost of the lives of health workers, older people and at-risk groups in other countries,” Ghebreyesus said. “The world’s poorest countries wonder whether rich countries really mean what they say when they talk about solidarity.”

While the Biden administration pledged $4 billion — more than any other country — in funding to COVAX earlier this year, the White House has not pledged to donate doses from its stockpile to COVAX.

Last week, the White House announced it would donate 4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine — a vaccine not yet approved for use in the U.S. — to Mexico and Canada, in what the White House described as a “loan.”

Earlier this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration wanted the “global community” to get vaccinated “when we get to the point…where we have vaccinated the American public.”