Amid growing concerns over virulent strains of SARS-CoV-2, the World Health Organisation has said no Covid-19 variants have emerged that undermine the efficacy of vaccines. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, however, added that there is no guarantee this will be the case in the future.
“No variants have emerged that significantly undermine the efficacy of vaccines, diagnostics or therapeutics. But there is no guarantee that will remain the case. The virus is constantly changing,” said WHO chief Tedros in his opening remarks at the 74th World Health Assembly on Thursday.
The WHO Director-General said these considerations should not discourage people from getting inoculated and called for a dramatic scale-up of vaccination in all countries.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged member states to support a “sprint to September” to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of the population of every country by September, and a “drive to December” to achieve the goal of vaccinating at least 30 per cent by the end of the year.
Taking a shot at the skewed vaccine distribution among developed and developing nations, the WHO chief termed it a “scandalous inequity that is perpetuating the pandemic” and said all health workers and people at high risk of contracting Covid-19 would have received the jab had the number of doses administered globally had been equitable.
Highlighting that there aren’t enough vaccines, the head of the WHO called on well-off member states to halt inoculating children and donate doses to those who really need them.
“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. 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,” he added.
On Covax the joint effort by the WHO and others to create a global vaccine-sharing programme Tedros said the number of doses made available to it remains inadequate.
“To date, Covax has shipped 70 million doses to 124 countries and economies. But that is sufficient for less than 0.5 per cent of the combined population of those countries,” the WHO chief said.
The WHO chief also urged countries with large stocks of vaccines to share them and appealed for greater cooperation to scale up production and distribution of the vaccine shots.
He also touched upon the proposed Framework Convention on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which seeks to support international solidarity and sharing data, information and resources.
There is a pressing need for every country to increase surveillance, testing, sequencing, and sharing information. This will not only help implement national vaccination strategies but also empower people and communities and support businesses and workplaces.
“We cannot build a safer world from the top down; we must build from the ground up. Preparing for, preventing, detecting and responding rapidly to epidemics doesn’t start in the world’s corridors of power. It starts in the streets of deprivation and overcrowding where people live without enough food, access to health workers, clean water and electricity,” concluded Tedros.