WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference following a ceremony to mark the opening of the WHO academy in Lyon, France, Sept. 27, 2021.
Denis Balibouse | Reuters
The discrepancy between the worldwide distribution of Covid-19 boosters and the first shots at people in developing countries is a “scandal,” said the Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a briefing on Friday.
The unfair distribution of vaccines has hit Africa particularly hard, where only 6% of the continent’s population are fully vaccinated against Covid, the WHO Regional Office for Africa reported on October 28. WHO officials have been criticizing the distribution of booster vaccinations to healthy adults for weeks. urge high-income countries to redistribute their excess doses to vaccinate health workers, the elderly and other high-risk adults in poorer countries.
“Six times more boosters are given each day worldwide than primary doses in low-income countries,” said Tedros. “This is a scandal that has to stop now.”
WHO had previously set a goal of vaccinating 40% of the population of each country by the end of the year, but more than 100 countries are currently missing the target, said WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan at the meeting. Swaminathan added that if COVAX, the WHO’s initiative to provide Covid syringes to at least 20% of the countries’ population, received about 500 million more doses for distribution, the WHO would likely miss this target.
According to Our World in Data, which compiles vaccination numbers from official public reports, only five countries in Africa have vaccinated more than 35% of their population, including Morocco, Tunisia and Mauritius. But these reports also show that the majority of African nations have fully vaccinated less than 10% of their population.
WHO officials are waging a war on Covid on two fronts as they seek solutions to global vaccine injustices as they face a surge that has raged across Europe in recent weeks. Europe recorded nearly 2 million new Covid cases in the week leading up to Sunday, representing 63% of all cases in the six regions of WHO member states, according to the organization’s latest weekly epidemiological update.
Germany hit a record seven-day average of more than 33,600 new Covid cases on Thursday, a 40% increase from a week ago. Although the UK’s weekly average of Covid cases fell more than 11% on Thursday, the country still recorded an average of over 34,600 new Covid cases.
The average 7-day cases increased by 52% in France and 48% in Italy on Thursday. Russia also reported a weekly average of more than 1,170 new deaths on Thursday, the highest since the pandemic began.
The coronavirus explosion in Europe is being driven by factors such as decreased masking and social distancing, as well as reduced public health and social measures, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical director for Covid.
“In the northern hemisphere, we are entering the winter months. People will be spending more time indoors,” said Van Kerkhove. “What we are now saying to all countries is to take a look at your situation, critically assess the situation you are in and make adjustments.”