The head of the World Health Organization on Monday chastized high-income countries for undermining the international Covax initiative when trying to secure Covid-19 vaccines for their own populations.
Referring to pledged funding for the international vaccine distribution mechanism, WHO director- general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Even if you have the money, if you cannot use the money to buy vaccines – having the money doesn’t mean anything.”
He was speaking after talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose country has pledged 1.5 billion euros to the scheme.
Without naming names, Tedros said some wealthy countries had approached vaccine manufacturers directly to strike deals and in doing so reduced the amount available to Covax.
The UN health chief stressed the importance of global access to vaccines: “If this virus is not defeated everywhere, we cannot defeat it globally. It will have a safe haven somewhere and can strike back.”
Countries left behind in vaccinating could also become “breeding grounds for new variants,” he warned.
Steinmeier conceded that money alone was not the solution, adding that vaccines were still a “scarce commodity.”
While refusing to be drawn on how many of its doses Germany would donate and when, Steinmeier said sharing the vaccines was in everyone’s interest.
“This is not easy but it is a question of humanity,” the German head of state said, while adding that distributing vaccines, tests and medicines during the pandemic was a “litmus test for global solidarity.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has called in recent days on rich nations to donate 4-5 per cent of their vaccine stock as quickly as possible.