The head of the World Health Organization blasted growing vaccine inequality on Monday. World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on March 22, 2021, blasted the “grotesque” growing gap between the number of coronavirus vaccines administered in rich and poor countries, branding the inequity a global “moral outrage”. The UN health agency chief also appealed to vaccine producers to follow AstraZeneca’s example and license their technology to other companies for faster distribution of vaccines across different countries.
The gap in the number of vaccinations adminstered in rich and poor countries was "growing every single day, and becoming more grotesque every day," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
"Some countries are racing to vaccinate their entire populations, while other countries have nothing," Tedros said.
The head of the UN health body added that this approach was giving rich countries a false sense of security.
Tedros has frequently warned that if the virus spreads unhindered in some parts of the world, mutations and variants can pose a threat everywhere.
Many rich countries have pledged to support the COVAX global vaccine-sharing initiative to give poorer countries access to vaccines, but few so far have shared their stocks.
While many low-income countries have not yet received a single vaccine dose, some wealthier countries have ordered enough doses to inoculate their populations twice.
Here is an overview of the latest coronavirus news from around the world.
Uruguay has confirmed that it has detected the presence of two coronavirus variants that originated in neighboring Brazil.
Early studies suggest they can overcome some antibodies, increase a person's chances of reinfection and decrease the efficacy of vaccines, meaning the variants are tougher to tackle.
Brazil's Health Ministry has recorded over 49,000 new cases of coronavirus and 1,383 new COVID-19 deaths.
The country has the world's highest daily caseload at present as it battles the two virus mutations.
Vacation to Majorca possible again without quarantining
The German Foreign Office removed its travel warning for Majorca on Sunday (March 14). You can now visit Majorca again without needing to quarantine or take a test once you’ve returned to Germany. Bookings have increased significantly, and more flights are being added. The other Balearic islands as well as parts of the Spanish mainland are also no longer considered coronavirus risk regions.
Germany is extending its lockdown until April 18, the country's 16 state leaders and Chancellor Angela Merkel have announced after over 12 hours of meetings.
According to Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI), the seven-day incidence rate was at 107 on Monday, above the 100 threshold at which hospitals can become overwhelmed.
Meanwhile, the RKI registered over 7,400 new COVID cases and 250 deaths from the respiratory virus with 24 hours.
Spain's health minister says the country will resume the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday and extend its use to adults under 65 years.
Like several other European countries, Spain stopped administering the AstraZeneca vaccine last week, amid unfounded concerns over possible links to blood clots.
More producers of COVID-19 vaccines should follow AstraZeneca’s lead and license technology to other manufacturers, the World Health Organization’s head said on Monday, as he described continuing vaccine inequity as “grotesque”.
FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo
AstraZeneca’s shot, which new U.S. data on Monday showed was safe and effective despite some countries suspending inoculations over health concerns, is being produced in various locations including South Korea’s SKBioScience and the Serum Institute of India.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for more manufacturers to adopt this model to boost supplies, including for the COVAX vaccine sharing programme seeking to speed more shots to developing countries.
“The gap between number of vaccines administered in rich countries and the number administered through COVAX is growing and becoming more grotesque every day,” Tedros told a news conference.
“The inequitable distribution of vaccines is not just a moral outrage. It’s also economically and epidemiologically self-defeating.”
Earlier, AstraZeneca released interim data showing its vaccine, developed with Oxford University, was 79% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and posed no increased risk of blood clots.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan called it a “very good vaccine for all age groups”.
Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark have extended suspensions of AstraZeneca’s shot as investigations continue into rare blood clotting events.
Still, WHO officials said African countries getting the vaccine via COVAX are moving ahead.
“They did ask a lot of questions but the demand for the vaccine is extremely high,” said WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward.
It remains possible for COVAX to hit a second-quarter goal of delivering 300 million doses, Aylward said, while acknowledging “teething problems”, with SKBioSciences and the Serum Institute hard pressed to satisfy COVAX orders.
“We simply cannot get enough vaccine,” Aylward said. “We’re hoping both companies will be able to scale up and keep up with the rate of deliveries we’re aiming for.”
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