WHO director-general calls for countries to vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations by September

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The World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general on Monday called for all countries to vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations by September and at least 30 percent by the end of 2021 in a “Drive to December”

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared during a speech to the annual World Health Assembly that WHO member states should back the “massive push” to reach these COVID-19 vaccination goals.

In order to reach the September target, 250 million more people in low- and middle-income countries have to get vaccinated, he said, “including all health workers and the most at-risk groups as the first priority.”

“This is crucial to stop severe disease and death, keep our health workers safe and reopen our societies and economies,” he said. 

“We must be very clear: the pandemic is not over, and it will not be over until and unless transmission is controlled in every last country,” he added. 

Tedros said WHO member nations need to share vaccine doses through COVAX — a program designed to get shots to low- and middle-income countries — to accomplish both goals, adding that the world needs hundreds of millions more doses in the program to “start moving in early June.”

The WHO director-general pointed out that more than 75 percent of all vaccines have been administered so far in only 10 wealthy countries, noting that the number of shots would have been enough for all health workers and older people in the world. 

“There is no diplomatic way to say it: a small group of countries that make and buy the majority of the world’s vaccines control the fate of the rest of the world,” he said, adding that he understands “that every government has a duty to protect its own people.”

“But right now, there is not enough supply,” he said “Countries that vaccinate children and other low-risk groups now do so at the expense of health workers and high-risk groups in other countries. That’s the reality.”

The U.S. has administered about 285.72 million COVID-19 vaccinations, or about 17 percent of the world’s total vaccine administrations, according to Our World in Data. 

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration gave its approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be given to 12- to 15-year-olds, leading states to open up shots to the younger age group. 

The move to vaccinate adolescents was criticized by some health professionals who argued that the more at-risk populations in other countries should be prioritized over children, who face lower rates of serious illness and death than elderly people. 

In his speech on Monday, Tedros also requested vaccine makers to “scale-up manufacturing,” saying manufacturers have expressed willingness to help create vaccines if companies share licenses and technology.  

“I find it difficult to understand why this has not happened yet,” he said.

President Biden declared his support for waiving international patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines earlier this month, sparking backlash from the drug industry and several Republicans.

Tags Coronavirus Covax COVID-19 COVID-19 vaccines Joe Biden Pandemic Vaccines WHO World Health Organization

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