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The world is facing a “catastrophic moral failure’’ over its distribution of COVID-19 vaccines — with wealthy countries gaining more access because they yield higher profits, a global health leader charged Monday.
While nations such as the US report the distribution of more than 31 million doses to residents so far, poorer countries have received a paltry number of immunizations — and that’s simply “not right,’’ said the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country — not 25 million, not 25,000, just 25,’’ said Tedros, who goes by his first name.
The WHO chief did not reveal the name of the country, but an agency spokeswoman later said it was Guinea in west Africa.
“I need to be blunt: The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure,’’ Tedros said of the globe’s current vaccine effort.
“It’s right that all governments want to prioritize vaccinating their own health workers and older people first. But it’s not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries. There will be enough vaccine for everyone,” he said at the opening of the agency’s annual executive board meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
“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 worlds of the world’s haves and have-nots,’’ Tedros said.
He said a big problem is that vaccine makers have been going through the government approval process in rich countries first because that’s where the money is to be made.
“Not only does this me-first approach leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk, it’s also self-defeating,’’ the WHO chief insisted, according to the BBC.
“Ultimately, these actions will only prolong the pandemic, prolong our pain, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering.’’
With Post wires
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