The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that 75% of all COVID-19 vaccinations worldwide have been given in just 10 countries, while nearly 130 nations have not given a single vaccination.
At the agency’s regular briefing in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that, globally, the number of vaccinations has now overtaken the number of reported COVID-19 infections.
He said that is basically good news and a remarkable achievement in such a short timeframe. But there are almost 130 countries with 2.5 billion people, that have not delivered a single dose of vaccine.
Tedros said there are some wealthier nations that have already vaccinated large proportions of their population at lower risk of severe disease or death.
The WHO chief said he recognizes that all governments have an obligation to protect their own people. But he said once wealthier nations have vaccinated their priority populations — frontline health workers and the elderly — the best way those nations can protect the rest of their population is to share surplus vaccines so other countries can do the same.
“The longer it takes to vaccinate those most at risk everywhere, the more opportunity we give the virus to mutate and evade vaccines,” said Tedros said, adding that unless the virus is suppressed everywhere, it could resurge globally.
One way to make poorer nations less dependent on the richer ones is to ramp up production of vaccines worldwide, he added, noting how the multi-national pharmaceutical company Sanofi announced it would make its manufacturing infrastructure available to support production of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Tedros called on other companies to do the same.
“We encourage all manufacturers to share their data and technology to ensure global, equitable access to vaccines.”