September 12, 2021 at 12:00 am
The United Nations chief warned that the world is “moving in the wrong direction” and exhorted nations to take urgent action to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
“COVID-19 is a wake-up call, and we are oversleeping,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a press conference.
Speaking ahead of the UN General Assembly that kicks off in New York on Sep. 21, Guterres lamented that vaccine-manufacturing nations have been unable to ramp up production toward the goal of vaccinating some 70 percent of the world population by the first half of 2022.
“The pandemic has demonstrated our collective failure to come together and make joint decisions for the common good, even in the face of an immediate, life-threatening global emergency,” Guterres said.
Earlier, the World Health Organization called on countries to avoid giving out extra COVID jabs until year-end, pointing to the millions worldwide who have yet to receive a single dose.
“I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists.
Speaking from WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, Tedros urged wealthy countries and vaccine makers to prioritise getting the first jabs to health workers and vulnerable populations in poorer nations over boosters.
“We do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated,” he said.
The WHO called last month for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots until the end of September to address the drastic inequity in dose distribution between rich and poor nations.
But Tedros acknowledged there had “been little change in the global situations since then.
“So today I am calling for an extension of the moratorium until at least the end of the year,” he said.
High-income countries had promised to donate more than one billion vaccine doses to poorer countries, he said – “but less than 15 percent of those doses have materialized.”
“We don’t want any more promises,” he said. “We just want the vaccines.”
But Tedros complained that while 90 percent of wealthy countries have hit the 10-percent mark, and more than 70 percent have already reached 40 percent, “not a single low-income country has reached either target.”
He expressed outrage at a statement by a pharmaceutical industry organisation that the world’s seven wealthiest nations, known as the G7, now had enough vaccines for all adults and teenagers – and to offer boosters to at-risk groups – and so the focus should shift to dose sharing.
“When I read this, I was appalled,” he said.
“In reality, manufacturers and high-income countries have long had the capacity to not only vaccinate their own priority groups, but to simultaneously support the vaccination of those same groups in all countries.”