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WHO urges 20 power players to end ‘disgraceful’ vaccine inequity

It says the world should be 'disgusted' that rich nations hog Covid-19 vaccine supply

GENEVA : The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged 20 leaders with the power to overturn the "disgraceful" global imbalance in access to Covid-19 vaccines to reverse the tide before October.

The UN health agency has been increasingly infuriated by what it sees as the moral outrage of rich countries hogging vaccine supply while developing nations struggle to immunise their most vulnerable.

Saying that the world should be "disgusted", Dr Bruce Aylward, the WHO's frontman on accessing the tools to fight the coronavirus pandemic, urged people to tell politicians and business tycoons that it was electorally and financially safe to increase vaccine coverage in poorer nations.

"There are probably 20 people in the world that are crucial to solving this equity problem," he said at a WHO media event on Tuesday.

"They head the big companies that are in charge of this; they head the countries that are contracting most of the world's vaccines, and they head the countries that produce them.

"We need those 20 people to say, 'We are going to solve this problem by the end of September. We are going to make sure that 10 per cent of every country... is vaccinated'."

Nearly 4.5 billion vaccine doses have been administered around the world, according to an AFP count.

In high-income countries, as categorised by the World Bank, 104 doses have been injected for every 100 people. In the 29 lowest-income nations, just two doses have been administered for ever 100 people.

"We should be collectively disgusted with ourselves," said Dr Aylward.

"I can't help but think: If we had tried to withhold vaccines from parts of the world, could we have made it any worse than it is today?"

The WHO wants every country to have vaccinated at least 10 per cent of its population by the end of September; at least 40 per cent by the end of this year, and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.

Last week, it called for a moratorium on vaccine booster shots to address the inequity - though several wealthy countries are going ahead regardless. The WHO said there is no convincing picture as to whether boosters are necessary, given the level of protection offered by the WHO-authorised vaccines. - AFP

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