Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, on Friday said that countries making deals with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers providing vaccines to COVAX are undermining the effort to vaccinate people around the world.
“We need to accelerate the supply and distribution of vaccines, and we cannot do that if some countries continue to approach manufacturers who are producing vaccines that COVAX is counting on,” he said. “These actions undermine COVAX and deprive health workers and vulnerable people around the world of life-saving vaccines.”
Tedros did not name any countries making such deals.
COVAX is an entity run by a coalition that includes the Vaccine Alliance known as Gavi and the World Health Organization (WHO), and is funded by donations from governments, multilateral institutions and foundations.
Its mission is to buy coronavirus vaccines in bulk and send them to poorer nations that can't compete with wealthy countries in securing contracts with the major drug companies.
Two countries – Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire – have now received vaccine doses from COVAX and the Serum Institute of India, Tedros said, and more doses will go to more countries in the coming weeks.
There’s progress toward the target of starting vaccination in all countries in the first 100 days of the year, “but that progress is fragile,” he said.
He said that now is the time to do everything to scale up production, including licensing, technology transfer and intellectual property waivers, when necessary.
While Tedros said that he understood that governments have an obligation to protect their people, the best way to do it is to suppress the virus everywhere at once.
Tedros said that the distribution of diagnostics, oxygen and dexamethasone also needs to be accelerated, as “although vaccines are a very powerful tool, they’re not the only tool.”