The World Health Organization has called on wealthy nations to hold off on vaccinating children against Covid-19 and instead donate doses to poorer countries through the global vaccine-sharing programme Covax.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voiced outrage that a number of rich countries were now vaccinating children and teenagers, while poorer states had barely begun vaccinating health workers and the most vulnerable groups.
Instead of offering jabs to young and healthy people, he called on countries to give their doses to the Covax equitable vaccine scheme and thereby ensure that those most in need in all countries receive protection.
“In January, I spoke about the potential unfolding of a moral catastrophe,” he told a press conference.
“Unfortunately, we’re now witnessing this play out. In a handful of rich countries, which bought up the majority of the supply, lower-risk groups are now being vaccinated.
“I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to Covax.
“In low and lower-middle income countries, Covid-19 vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunise healthcare workers, and hospitals are being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently.”
Nearly 1.4 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been injected in at least 210 territories around the world, according to an AFP count.
Some 44 percent of the doses have been administered in high-income countries accounting for 16 percent of the global population.
Just 0.3 percent have been administered in the 29 lowest-income countries, home to nine percent of the world’s population.
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 3.3 million people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.