| 15 April 2024, Monday |

WHO Urges Donations of COVID Vaccines to Poorer Countries

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) urged the global community to donate COVID-19 vaccines to lower income countries, citing the urgent need for 10 million doses for a WHO-backed vaccine distribution program.
“COVAX is ready to deliver but we can’t deliver vaccines we don’t have,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual news conference in Geneva.
COVAX, an abbreviation for the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access initiative, aims to provide equitable access to vaccines worldwide to low- and middle-income countries.

“Bilateral deals, export bans, and vaccine nationalism have caused distortions in the market with gross inequities in supply and demand,” Tedros said. “Ten million doses are not much and it’s not nearly enough.”

Tedros’ appeal comes after India, a key supplier to the agency’s COVAX vaccine-sharing program, said it was prioritizing local needs.

The WHO chief said India’s move was “understandable” given the rising number of infections in India. He said talks were in progress with India to find a balance between local and international needs.

India said Friday it set a record with a tally of more than 59,000 new cases from the previous 24-hour period.

At the United Nations in New York, 181 nations signed onto a political declaration that calls for COVID-19 vaccinations to be treated as a global public good, ensuring affordable, equitable and fair access to vaccines for all.

“We can see the end of the crisis, but to reach it, we need to work together with a deeper sense of collaboration,” part of the declaration states.

Among the appeals are calls on nations to fully fund the COVAX facility to distribute vaccines to low-income and developing countries, scale up vaccine production through the distribution of technology and licenses and launch public information campaigns on the importance and safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

“There is a race everywhere between the vaccines and the pandemic,” said Lebanon’s Ambassador Amal Mudallali, on behalf of the countries that drafted the document. “This race will be won before the start by the ‘haves,’ if there is no equitable, affordable sharing of vaccines.”

The United States has more cases than another country, with more than 30.1 million infections, followed by Brazil, with 12.4 million, and India, with 11.9 million, according to the center.

In Germany, officials warned residents not to make unnecessary trips to neighboring France, Austria, Denmark, or the Czech Republic because of rising coronavirus case numbers. Germany is also facing its own surge of infections, driven by a more transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in Britain.

The head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, Lothar Wieler, said on Friday that the country’s current wave of coronavirus infections could be the worst so far and said 100,000 new daily infections is not out of the question.

“There are clear signals that this wave will be worse than the first two waves,” Wieler said. He urged people to stay home over Easter.

In the Czech Republic, Parliament extended a state of emergency, which gives the government extra powers to fight the pandemic until April 11.