U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned against "vaccinationalism" on Thursday as countries race to inoculate their populations against COVID-19.
Guterres made the remark at a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, as he was discussing the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, which aims to deliver coronavirus vaccines to developing countries.
“It is not with vaccinationalism that we are going to defeat COVID-19,” Guterres said. “It is with international cooperation.”
COVAX is facing is facing a $5 billion gap in funding through the end of January, Guterres said, and $20 billion funding gap globally.
Guterres added that countries bought more vaccines than “several times the volume of their population.” He implored nations that bought a large number of vaccines to put them toward COVAX so that developing countries can have access as well.
Guterres added that governments cannot protect their own people if other nations are not protected. He said “nature always strikes back.”
“Let's not forget that if you don't eradicate the disease, the virus can mutate,” he said. “And vaccines that at a certain moment are effective can no longer be effective if things change.
The warning comes amid fears that wealthier nations stockpiling vaccines will create a shortage for other nations.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance warned last week that only 10 percent of people in 70 developing countries are expected to be inoculated next year. Wealthy nations on the other hand have stockpiled more than half of the vaccine supply, enough to vaccinate triple their populations by the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced on Thursday that the nation is providing free vaccines to its population and additional free vaccines to neighboring states if they request them.