Donating vaccines next year will be too late, WHO boss warns

18 June 2021, 22:48 | Updated: 18 June 2021, 23:55

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned of a "two-track pandemic"
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned of a "two-track pandemic". Picture: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

By Daisy Stephens

Vaccines are not being donated to poorer countries fast enough, the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that a “two-track pandemic” was emerging from unfair distribution of vaccines, and said jabs donated next year “will be far too late” for many.

“The global failure to share vaccines equitably is fuelling a two-track pandemic that’s now taking its toll on some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.

“Vaccines donated next year will be far too late for those who are dying today, or being infected today, or at risk today.”

He outlined global vaccination targets and called them “critical milestones” in defeating the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our global targets are to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of the population of every country by September, at least 40 per cent by the end of the year, and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.

“These are the critical milestones we must reach together to end the pandemic.”

There are significant variations in vaccination rates across the world.

In the UK over 80 per cent of adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine, with everyone over the age of 18 now eligible to book their jabs.

But in some countries, particularly in the southern hemisphere, this number is less than one per cent.

The G7 nations pledged to donate a billion Covid jabs to poorer countries at the G7 summit, with the UK’s contribution being another 100 million vaccines between now and next June.

"This is another billion made up of a massive contribution by the United States and other friends,” said Boris Johnson at a news conference after the summit.

But charities called the pledge a “moral failure” which did not match demand, something that Mr Johnson rejected.

"Already, of the 1.5 billion vaccines that have been distributed around the world, I think that people in this country should be very proud that half a billion of them are as a result of the actions taken by the UK Government in doing that deal with the Oxford scientists and AstraZeneca to distribute it at cost,” he said.

He said the target to vaccinate the world by the end of next year will be done "very largely thanks to the efforts of the countries who have come here [the G7 summit] today".

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Mr Johnson also denied that he lacked “moral authority” to persuade other G7 nations to provide vaccines after cutting the UK’s international aid spending.

"I obviously reject that outright because the UK has given £1.6 billion to Gavi [the Vaccine Alliance], £548 million to Covax and half a billion vaccines that are being distributed around the world,” he said.