The head of the World Health Organization says the continuing surge of COVID-19 cases is a result of the unequal distribution of vaccines.
Speaking at the First International Conference on Public Health in Africa, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that it has been just over a year since the first COVID-19 vaccines began to be administered.
He said, “A year ago, we all hoped that by now vaccines would be helping us all emerge from the long, dark tunnel of the pandemic. Instead, as we enter the third year of the pandemic, the death toll has more than tripled, and the world remains in its grip. COVID-19 has now killed more than 5 million people. And they’re just the reported deaths.”
Tedros told the virtual conference that the rapid development of not one, but several safe and effective vaccines, is a triumph of science. But he said, “the inequitable distribution of vaccines has been a failure for humanity.”
The WHO chief said that while more than 8.5 billion doses have been administered globally – the largest vaccination campaign in history, only 8% of Africa’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.
“We have often said that as long as vaccine inequity persists, the more opportunity the virus has to spread and mutate in ways no one can prevent or predict. And so, we have omicron,” the director-general said.
Tedros noted, however, that vaccine-sharing programs are “picking up speed.” He said, “In the past 10 weeks, COVAX has shipped more vaccines than in the first nine months of the year combined.”