World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters Wednesday that the world was at a perilous point in the COVID-19 pandemic, as fast-moving variants continued to spread because of an uneven global vaccination effort.
From the agency’s headquarters in Geneva, Tedros said that some countries with high vaccination rates were making plans to roll out booster shots in coming months and were dropping public health social distancing measures and relaxing as though the pandemic were already over.
But the WHO chief said that because of what he called a “shocking inequity in vaccination,” and highly contagious variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, far too many countries in every region of the world were seeing spikes in cases and hospitalizations.
He said that had led to an acute shortage of oxygen and treatments and was driving a wave of death in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Tedros said around the world, variants were winning the race against vaccines because of inequitable vaccine production and distribution, which, he said, also threatened the global economic recovery.
4 million deaths
Deaths worldwide related to the coronavirus recently passed 4 million as many countries struggled to obtain sufficient supplies of vaccines to inoculate their populations.
He said, “Vaccine nationalism, where a handful of nations have taken the lion’s share, is morally indefensible and an ineffective public health strategy against a respiratory virus that is mutating quickly and becoming increasingly effective at moving from human to human.”
Tedros noted that finance ministers from the G-20 world economic powers would be meeting this week in Venice. He called on the finance ministers and other leaders to get behind his call for 10 percent of people in all countries to be vaccinated by September and for that figure to rise to 40 percent by the end of the year.
He said providing the necessary funding to scale up the equitable manufacturing and distribution of health tools was the fastest way to end the acute stage of the pandemic, save lives and livelihoods, and drive a truly global economic recovery.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.