Even as many countries in the developing world struggle with a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases and a mounting death toll, some rich nations having successfully vaccinated high-risk citizens, are now moving to vaccinate low-risk categories such as children and teenagers. The World Health Organization (WHO) has now appealed to these nations to donate vaccines to developing nations in a bid to maintain vaccine equity.
Speaking at an online press conference, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO said, “In a handful of rich countries, which bought up the majority of the vaccine supply, lower risk groups are now being vaccinated. I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents. But right now, I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to COVAX. Because in low and lower-middle income countries, vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunize health and care workers, and hospitals are being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently.”
Dr. Ghebreyesus further informed, “At present only 0.3 percent of the vaccine supply is going to low-income countries. Trickle down vaccination is not an effective strategy for fighting a deadly respiratory virus.”
He specifically pointed out the case of India where a fresh surge in cases has led to over 400,000 fresh cases being reported everyday. Local media reports have showcased how the entire healthcare infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the daily deluge of cases, and people are resorting to social media posts to make arrangements for oxygen and life-saving medication. The country is facing a vaccine shortage as a result of which healthcare and frontline workers, senior citizens and persons with comorbidities are being prioritized for vaccination, even though 25-45-year-olds form the bulk of the population and likely to be carriers given how they also form a bulk of the working population.
“India remains hugely concerning, with several states continuing to see a worrying number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. WHO is responding, and has shipped thousands of oxygen concentrators, tents for mobile field hospitals, masks and other medical supplies,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus, adding, “Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Egypt are just some of the countries that are dealing with spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”
*Feature Image courtesy UNICEF via Twitter.