Rich countries undermine vaccine delivery to poor countries, WHO says

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The WHO boss on Monday accused some rich countries of "undermining" the COVID vaccine distribution system, COVAX, intended in particular for disadvantaged countries, by continuing to contact manufacturers directly to have access to more doses .

Some rich countries are now approaching manufacturers to ensure access to additional doses of vaccine, which is impacting contracts with COVAX Chief Executive Officer Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a joint press conference via videoconference with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The number of doses allocated to COVAX has been reduced because of this, he added.

The COVAX system was set up to try to prevent rich countries from monopolizing all the doses of vaccine which are still manufactured in too small quantities to meet global demand.

The COVAX system includes a financing mechanism that should allow 92 low and middle income economies to have access to vaccines.

But the shortage of vaccines means that the first distributions to poor countries should not take place before the end of the month, while in many rich countries vaccination campaigns began at the end of 2020.

Russian-made Sputnik-V vaccine vials against Covid-19

Some rich countries are approaching manufacturers for more doses of the vaccine, reducing the share allocated to the UN COVAX program, according to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Photo: Getty Images / STR

Responding to a question on the substantial commitments made by the United States, the European Union and Germany to significantly increase their contribution to COVAX, the Director General showed his frustration.

Having the money doesn't mean a thing, if you can't use it to buy vaccines, he said. We can only deliver vaccines to COVAX member countries if the rich countries cooperate by respecting the contracts entered into by COVAX, he insisted, urging these countries, which he did not mention, to ensure that their behavior does not undermine the distribution system overseen by the World Health Organization (WHO) among others. and the alliance for vaccines (GAVI).

He added : But I don't think they are wondering.

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  • COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries in early 2021
  • Not all countries are equal when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine

Frank-Walter Steinmeier also pleaded for vaccines to be more widely distributed, for moral reasons, but also because it is in everyone's best interest to eradicate the virus quickly, to prevent variants, sometimes more dangerous, do not continue to flourish everywhere.

But, he admitted, governments have first and foremost an obligation to their people.

Dr Tedros supported the idea of ​​suspending intellectual property on COVID vaccines so that they can quickly increase their production. A proposal in this direction has been discussed since last year at the World Trade Organization, but it is strongly contested by the pharmaceutical industry and a number of large countries where it is based.

He also called on manufacturers who do not produce their own anti-COVID vaccine to make their production capacities available to their competitors, following the example of an initiative taken by Frenchman Sanofi.

Non-exclusive licenses would be an additional means to produce faster, he explained, acknowledging that as long as there was a shortage people would remain deaf to the call to share vaccines with the entire international community.

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