The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged world leaders to guarantee equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and other life-saving tools, and to ensure the world is better prepared to respond to future pandemics.
The body made the called on all leaders attending the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), noting that delays in ensuring fair vaccine distribution were ultimately prolonging the fight against the virus.
“Vaccines are the most critical tool to end the pandemic and save lives and livelihoods,” WHO said in a Friday press release.
“More than 5.7 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally, but 73 percent of all doses have been administered in just 10 countries. High-income countries have administered 61 times more doses per inhabitant than low-income countries. The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and evolving, and the longer the social and economic disruption will continue,” it added.
WHO has set a target of vaccinating at least 40 percent of the population of every country by the end of this year, and 70 percent by the middle of next year. These targets have however come under threat as vaccine inequity persists.
On Thursday, the health body warned that Africa faces a shortfall of almost 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines required to hit its year-end target.
“Export bans and vaccine hoarding have a chokehold on vaccine supplies to Africa. As long as rich countries lock COVAX out of the market, Africa will miss its vaccination goals,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa.
The number of COVID-19 infections globally has surpassed the 227.11 million mark, with over 4.67 million fatalities.