The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday asked leaders to look beyond their borders and employ a vaccine strategy that can end the pandemic and limit chances of the virus to mutate.
In joint a statement issued by the UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore and WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, they noted that of the 128 million vaccine doses administered so far, more than three quarters of the vaccination exercises are in just 10 countries that account for 60% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Also, almost 130 countries with 2.5 billion people are yet to administer a single dose of the vaccine as of February 11 according to the statement.
“This self-defeating strategy will cost lives and livelihoods, give the virus further opportunity to mutate and evade vaccines and will undermine a global economic recovery,” the officials warned.
They said that health workers have been on the front lines of the pandemic in lower and middle income settings and should be protected first so they, in turn, can protect people. As such, COVAX participating countries are preparing to receive and use vaccines.
“Health workers have been trained, cold chain systems primed. What’s missing is the equitable supply of vaccines,” the statement reads in part.
In order to ensure that vaccine rollouts begin in all countries in the first 100 days of 2021, WHO noted, governments that have vaccinated their own health workers and populations at highest risk of severe disease should share vaccines through COVAX so other countries can do the same.
WHO and UNICEF officials also asked vaccine manufacturers to allocate the limited vaccine supply equitably; share safety, efficacy and manufacturing data as a priority with WHO for regulatory and policy review; step up and maximize production and transfer technology to other manufacturers who can help scale the global supply.