UN Chief warns on vaccine inequity

Published January 26, 2021, 9:00 AM

by Bloomberg

UNITED NATIONS (Bloomberg) — Vaccine coverage won’t reach a point that would stop transmission of the virus in the foreseeable future, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday as United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world is risking more virus variations by not pushing for vaccines in developing nations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (AFP Photo / Alberto RAGGIO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (AFP Photo / Alberto RAGGIO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“If the rich world doesn’t act urgently to help developing countries get their populations vaccinated, more virus mutations could render the current shots ineffective,” Guterres said.

“If we believe it’s possible to vaccinate the Global North and forget about the Global South, if we let the virus spread like wildfire in the Global South, it will mutate,” Guterres told the Davos Agenda event on Monday. “And when it mutates, it will come back in a way that vaccines will no longer be relevant.”

Guterres said that many developed countries have bought more vaccines than they need and should put “those that will not be necessary at the disposal of developing countries.” He added that licensing should be made available for developing countries like Brazil and India, which have a “huge capacity of generics,” in order to scale up production of vaccines.

WHO sees continued transmission

Vaccine coverage won’t reach a point that would stop transmission in the foreseeable future, according to Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies program. Looking at eradication of the virus as the measure of success will mean the world is going to struggle, he added.

“The bar for success is reducing the capacity of this virus to kill, to put people in hospital, to destroy our economic and social lives,” he said. He added that there are not enough vaccines right now to even serve those who are most at risk.

Separately, WHO officials said the recommended intervals between the first and second shots should be respected.

 
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