‘World on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure’, WHO warns against vaccine nationalism

World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday warned that “the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure” after powerful countries stir ‘vaccine nationalism’ undermining the poor.

“I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure—and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.”

Tedros in his opening remarks shed lights on the discriminatory history of health inequalities. “40 years ago, a new virus emerged and sparked a pandemic. Life-saving medicines were developed, but more than a decade passed before the world’s poor got access to them”.

Tedros called the Covid-19 response “an opportunity to beat history; to write a different story.”

“Even as they speak the language of equitable access, some countries and companies continue to prioritize bilateral deals—going around COVAX, driving up prices, and attempting to jump to the front of the queue,” warned Tedros.

Speaking from the United Nations headquarters in Geneva at the start of the WHO executive board’s week-long virtual meeting, WHO director declared “This is wrong.”

“We now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to some, they become another brick in the wall of inequality between the world’s haves and have-nots.”

—Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO

The WHO-backed COVAX program is an international and cooperative project aimed at ensuring that the inhabitants of poor countries receive vaccines.

Dr Tedros noted that “just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country—not 25 million, not 25,000—just 25.” The WHO chief contrasted that figure with the 39 million doses that had been allocated in 49 higher-income countries.

Tedros explained that while the U.N. health agency has secured 2 billion doses from five producers, with options on more than 1 billion additional doses, its effort to achieve a just distribution of doses could be undermined by vaccine nationalism and the pharmaceutical industry’s attempt to maximize profits.