Vaccine crisis a scandalous inequity promoting Covid pandemic: WHO

The ongoing vaccine crisis is a "scandalous inequity" that is perpetuating the Covid pandemic, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (File Photo)
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (File Photo)

Geneva

In his address at the WHO's 74th World Health Assembly, taking place online from May 24 to June 1, he said: "More than 75 per cent of all vaccines have been administered in just 10 countries." The fate of the rest of the world is controlled by a small group of countries that are making and buying the majority of the vaccines, he added.. 
If the vaccines had been distributed equitably, the doses "administered globally so far would have been enough to cover all health workers and older people". 
"We could have been in a much better situation," he lamented. 
Further, Ghebreyesus stated that countries vaccinating children and other low-risk groups now "do so at the expense of health workers and high-risk groups in other countries". 
While 72 million doses have been shipped to 125 countries through COVAX, they are sufficient for barely 1 per cent of the combined population of those countries. 
Ghebreyesus called on member states to support vaccination of at least 10 per cent of the population of every country by September, and at least 30 per cent by the end of the year. 
"We must be very clear: the pandemic is not over, and it will not be over until and unless transmission is controlled in every last country," he said. 
The global health body chief urged all countries to increase surveillance, testing, sequencing, and sharing information; surge supplies needed to protect health workers; fight misinformation and disinformation; empower people and communities to play their part; support businesses and workplaces to take steps to open up safely, where appropriate; implement national vaccination strategies, vaccinate those most at risk, and donate vaccines to COVAX. 
1,15,000 healthcare workers died due to Covid 
Nearly 1,15,000 health and care workers have died due to Covid since the pandemic began last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, hailing their sacrifice and asserting the need to protect and invest in healthcare workforce as a matter of urgency.
"We estimate that at least 1,15,000 health and care workers have paid the ultimate price in the service of others. Health and care workers do heroic things, but they are not superheroes. They are humans like the rest of us. Many feel frustrated, helpless and unprotected, with a lack of access to personal protective equipment and vaccines, and the tools to save lives," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the opening of the WHO's 74th World Health Assembly (WHA). 
The 74th WHA is taking place online from May 24 to June 1. 
"We owe them so much, and yet globally health and care workers often lack the protection, the equipment, the training, the decent pay, the safe working conditions and the respect they deserve. If we have any hope of achieving a healthier, safer, fairer future, every Member State must protect and invest in its health and care workforce as a matter of urgency," Ghebreyesus added. 
He lamented that so many healthcare workers lost their lives in the last 18 months and many more will lose as long as the pandemic rages. Based on current trends, the number of deaths will overtake last year's total within the next three weeks, Ghebreyesus said. 
"Since our Health Assembly started this morning, almost 1,000 people have lost their lives to Covid-19. And in the time it takes me to make these remarks, a further 400 will die. This is very tragic," he said. 
Lauding healthcare workers' efforts, particularly through the pandemic, the WHO chief said: "Today I ask you not for a moment's silence, but to make the loudest noise you can. Please join me in clapping, shouting and stamping your feet for every health and care worker everywhere."

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