Vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic, not shorten it: WHO Chief

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‘Vaccine nationalism’ will prolong the Covid-19 pandemic, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic, not shorten it,” Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing on Friday.

The WHO chief emphasised on the importance of vaccinating the vulnerable population in all countries first as soon as an effective vaccine is approved.

“In the coming months, we all hope to have good news about a vaccine for Covid-19. But if and when we have an effective vaccine, we must also use it effectively,” he said.

“In time, as production increases, we want all people everywhere to have access to vaccines. But initially, when supply is limited, priority must be given to vaccinating essential workers and those most at risk – including older people and those with underlying conditions. In other words, the first priority must be to vaccinate some people in all countries, rather than all people in some countries,” he said.

The WHO Director-General stated that it was “economically imperative” to give access to an effective vaccine to all countries.

“In our interconnected world, if people in low- and middle-income countries miss out on vaccines, the virus will continue to kill and the economic recovery globally will be delayed,” he said.

Multiple vaccine candidates have reached their final stages of trials. The UN health agency has introduced an initiative called ‘COVAX’ facility that it says will ensure equitable access to the vaccine for all member countries.

However, many counties, including the United States, have decided to secure their own vaccines when approved rather than joining the facility.

So far, 78 high- and upper-middle-income countries and economies have confirmed their participation in the COVAX Facility, WHO said.

The Coalition for Epidemic Innovations and Preparedness (CEPI) a partner in the initiative is supporting nine candidate vaccines “that will be made available to the Facility if successful, seven of which are in clinical trials,” Ghebreyesus said.

He further urged countries to join the facility and confirm their participation by September 18. So far, Germany, Japan, Norway and the European Commission have publicly confirmed that they will be joining the COVAX Facility.

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