Vaccine equity: ‘Race is on’ to inoculate health workers and those most at risk globally
As the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines continues to be a major concern, the UN health chief said on Thursday that with just over a week remaining until the deadline for vaccinating health workers and those at-risk in all countries is reached, it still remained “in our grasp”.
Although COVAX has already delivered 35 million doses to more than 78 countries, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said there was still “a serious challenge on vaccine equity and availability”.
“The race is on to get vaccines to those places and groups where they can have the greatest impact”, he told a regular press conference, reminding, “we’re not in a race against each other, we’re in a race against the virus”.
Over the last year, the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator has equitably provided COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to all people globally – regardless of wealth.
The WHO chief said it “has been critical for ensuring that new vaccines, lifesaving oxygen, corticosteroids for severe disease and rapid tests are being shared more equitably”.
And at the news briefing, he announced that former Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, has become a special advisor to the initiative, to help lead the “collective advocacy for the ACT-Accelerator, mobilizing support and critical resources so it can deliver against its strategy for 2021”.
“We can take the ACT-Accelerator to the next level, overcome vaccine nationalism so that we defeat this pandemic and recover together”, Tedros stated.
Tedros described the multilateral momentum towards a new pandemic treaty, “a generational commitment to keeping the world safe”. He said that more than 25 leaders from every region, including the G7 intergovernmental group of leading countries and G20 industrialized nations, have united behind it.
“There will always be new pathogens with pandemic potential”, he asserted, “it’s not a matter of if, but when”, which is why a stronger health workforce must be enshrined in the treaty as they are “the very essence of health systems resilience”.