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WHO chief calls for vaccinating at least 10 per cent of population of every country by September to control pandemic

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Ghebreyesus called for a global effort to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of the population of every country by September, at least 40 per cent by the end of the year, and at least 70 per cent by the middle of next year

Voicing concern over many countries failing to vaccinate their people, WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus yesterday called for vaccinating at least 10 per cent of the population of every country by September as he emphasised that vaccination is the best way to control the pandemic and reboot the global economy.

“Vast inequities in the access to vaccines are fuelling a two-track pandemic. While some countries have reached a high level of coverage, many others don’t have enough to vaccinate health workers, older people and other at-risk groups,” the World Health Organisation Director General said in a virtual address to India Global Forum.

Asserting that when some countries cannot vaccinate, it’s a threat to all countries, Ghebreyesus called for a global effort to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of the population of every country by September, at least 40 per cent by the end of the year, and at least 70 per cent by the middle of next year.

“Vaccine equity is not just the right thing to do. It’s the best way to control the pandemic and reboot the global economy,” the WHO chief said as he warned that “until we end the pandemic everywhere, we will not end it anywhere.”

According to a UN report, COVID-19 vaccination rates are uneven across countries, ranging from below one per cent of the population in some countries to above 60 per cent in others.

The UN-backed COVAX global vaccine sharing programme has faced a slow start to its campaign, as richer nations have locked up billions of doses through contracts directly with drug manufacturers. The COVAX has distributed just 81 million doses globally and parts of the world, particularly in Africa.

“The pandemic shows the risk of relying on a few companies to supply global public goods like vaccines. The consequences of the resultant inabilities in that case of COVID-19 globally remain high in many areas even as new variants are emerging,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.

Bruce Aylward, Senior Adviser to Ghebreyesus, last month said that the global alliance for equitable vaccine distribution is about 200 million (20 crore) doses behind where it should be due to disruption in COVAX supplies as a result of the devastating second wave of the coronavirus in India.

Aylward said the WHO is urgently trying to work with AstraZeneca, Serum Institute of India (SII) as well as the Indian government to restart shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to countries that had to suspend the rollout of second doses of vaccines amid the disruption in supplies.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, is the key supplier of AstraZeneca doses to COVAX. However, the supply of vaccines from SII to COVAX has been impacted as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit India.

Last month, the G7 consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US pledged over one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the world’s poorest countries by the end of next year.

Globally, the coronavirus has infected over 18.2 crore people and killed nearly 40 lakh, according to Johns Hopkins University.

India has recorded more than three crore coronavirus cases and registered nearly 400,000 deaths due to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic last year.

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