WHO chief accuses rich countries of undermining Covax

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urges wealthy nations to check their bids for more vaccines do not affect supply for the poorest nations

This handout picture taken and released on February 12, 2021 by World Health Organization (WHO) shows  WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivering remarks during a press conference on February 12, 2021 in Geneva. The head of the World Health Organization said on February 12, 2021 that all hypotheses on the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic remained on the table following the WHO's investigation in China. - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/ CHRIS BLACK/ WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
 / AFP / World Health Organization / Christopher Black / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/ CHRIS BLACK/ WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION" - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Wealthy countries seeking more Covid-19 vaccines are undermining the Covax initiative to inoculate the world’s poorest people against Covid-19, the head of the World Health Organisation said.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the coronavirus could not be defeated unless it was tackled globally.

Billions of dollars have been pledged to Covax to ensure equitable and affordable access to vaccines.

Dr Tedros thanked G7 countries for recent “significant” donations, which now total $7.5 billion.

“Even if you have the money, if you cannot use the money to buy vaccines, having the money doesn’t mean anything,” Dr Tedros said during a press conference with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

G7 member Germany pledged to donate €1.5bn ($1.82bn) last Friday to Covax. But rich countries have also bought up billions of vaccine doses while poorer nations struggle to obtain them.

Dr Tedros said rich countries must ensure their vaccine orders did not undermine the programme.

“But I don’t think they’re asking that question, and that’s why one thing that I would ask the high-income countries is: before they ask the manufacturers or the private sector for additional vaccines they should make sure whether their request affects the Covax deal or not.”

Dr Tedros underlined the importance of accelerating vaccine supply, “because with increased production, the pie is increased, then there is a better volume to share. Otherwise, with shortages, sharing is difficult,” he said. “And that’s exactly what’s happening now.”

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