Vaccine equality only way out of pandemic: WHO

The Director General of the World Health Organisation has warned the world remains a dangerous place as the COVID pandemic continues to increase.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (above) warned that while developed economies have been undergoing a rapid vaccine roll out the pandemic will continue to blight the planet unless the vaccines are more evenly distributed.

“Our only way out is to support countries in the equitable distribution of PPE (personal protective equipment), tests, treatments and vaccines,” he said. “It is not rocket science, nor charity. It is smart public health and in everyone’s best interest.”

Ghebreyesus added leaders must discuss ways to address urgent needs and scale-up lifesaving treatments amid what he described as “a two-track pandemic”.

Countries that are now able to open up, “are those that have largely controlled the supply of lifesaving of personal protective equipment, tests, oxygen, and especially vaccines”, he said. “Meanwhile, countries without access to sufficient supplies are facing waves of hospitalisations and death. This is being compounded by virus variants.”

Currently, more than 180 nations and economies are taking part in the COVAX vaccination scheme, which aims to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to shots.

Ghebreyesus added that the financing mechanism supporting COVAX, known as the Advanced Market Commitment, is fully funded for this year “but there are still substantial risks in the vaccine supply forecast.”

The WHO together with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are working to find practical ways to track, coordinate and advance deliveries to low and middle-income countries.

Last month, the UN agency announced it was supporting the establishment in South Africa of the first technology transfer hub for mRNA vaccines, where manufacturers from developing countries will be trained in how to produce these new treatments.

Messenger RNA, or mRNA technology, instructs cells to make a protein that generates an immune response in the body, thus producing the antibodies that provide protection against a disease. It is the basis for some of the COVID-19 vaccines being used by governments worldwide and by.

Ghebreyesus said the announcement of the hub is a positive step forward, “but we need manufacturers to help by sharing know-how and accelerating technology transfer.”