The World Health Organization (WHO) Monday called on the international community to put the same effort into fairly distributing coronavirus vaccines, which appear to be on the verge of approval, as they did in creating them.
At the WHO’s regular news briefing in Geneva, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lauded the recent development of the vaccines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech inoculation being considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European regulators. He noted the significance of the scientific achievement cannot be overstated.
He said, “No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development.” But he said the international community must set a new standard for access to these new vaccines and ensure they are available to the poorest nations in the world.
Tedros also said, “The urgency with which COVID-19 vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly.” The COVID-19 disease is caused by the coronavirus.
The WHO director-general expressed concern that the poorest and most vulnerable nations will “be trampled in the stampede for vaccines.”
Earlier this year, the agency, in collaboration with other organizations, developed the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator program and the Cooperative Vaccine Development Group, known as COVAX, specifically to ensure any viable vaccines are made equitably available throughout the world. Tedros says 187 nations are now participating.
But he said $4.3 billion is needed immediately to support the mass procurement & delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, and another $23.8 billion will be needed next year.
The director-general said the programs are a good investment for the world’s strongest economies. He cited an International Monetary Fund Report that said if medical solutions to the pandemic are quickly made widely available, it could increase income globally by $9 trillion in the next five years.
Tedros said contributing to the effort is not charity; it is the fastest way to end the pandemic and drive the global economic recover.
“The real question is not whether the world can afford to share COVID-19 vaccines and other tools; it’s whether it can afford not to,” he said.