Eighteen months after the appearance of Covid-19 in China, “the world remains in a very dangerous situation”, warns the World Health Organization (WHO). Officially, more than 166.8 million people have been infected with the novel coronavirus which has caused more than 3.46 million deaths.
The number of Covid-19 cases recorded so far in 2021 (less than five months) is greater than that recorded for the whole of 2020, says WHO, and according to projections, it should be the same for the number of virus-related deaths within three weeks.
“No country should consider to be out of the woods, regardless of its vaccination rate,” warned WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the 74th World Health Assembly – the second organized in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
If none of the variants of the virus appear to compromise the effectiveness of vaccines, diagnostics and therapies against Covid-19, “there is no guarantee that this will remain the case,” said the Director-General. “We must be very clear: the pandemic is not over and it will not be until transmission is controlled in all countries,” said Dr Tedros. A direct allusion to the “dangers of a two-speed global response” raised by the UN chief during this World Health Assembly which will hold its work until June 1.
“Sadly, unless we act now, we are facing a situation where rich countries are vaccinating the majority of their populations and opening up their economies, while the virus continues to cause great suffering by turning and mutating in the poorest countries ”, warned United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, insisting that“ Covid-19 cannot be defeated one country at a time ”.
For the head of the WHO, the current crisis of vaccines against Covid-19 is a “scandalous injustice which perpetuates the pandemic”. According to the UN agency, more than 75% of all vaccines have been administered in just 10 countries. “There is no diplomatic way of saying it: a small group of countries that manufacture and buy the majority of vaccines in the world control the fate of the rest of the world,” lamented Dr Tedros.
While the COVAX international solidarity mechanism has made it possible to deliver 72 million doses to 125 states with modest resources, only 1% of the combined population of these countries has been vaccinated. Dr Tedros called on all states to ensure that at least 10% of the population of each country is vaccinated by September and at least 30% by the end of the year.
According to the WHO, the number of doses administered worldwide so far would have been sufficient to cover all health workers and the elderly, if they had been distributed equitably. “We could have been in a much better situation,” Dr Tedros insisted, noting that countries that immunize children and other low-risk groups are now doing so at the expense of health workers and high-risk groups in the country. other countries. ” It is reality “.
The WHO chief called on all countries to share their doses with COVAX and to support it. He also called on vaccine manufacturers to increase their production and reserve at least 50% of it for the international solidarity mechanism. Dr Tedros also called on states to fund the ACT Accelerator – the device to accelerate access to tools to fight Covid-19 and which includes COVAX. To date, the ACT Accelerator needs $ 18.5 billion.
The Secretary-General of the UN, launched the same calls, stressing that “the world must react resolutely and in solidarity to stop the virus”.
Last Friday, Mr. Guterres called on the G20 countries to set up a working group that brings together all countries with vaccine production capacities, WHO, ACT Accelerator partners and international financial institutions, able to deal with pharmaceutical companies and other key stakeholders. “This working group should address the issue of equitable global distribution using the ACT Accelerator and its COVAX mechanism,” said the Secretary-General.
At the World Health Assembly, the UN chief called on states to strengthen their primary health systems and universal health coverage, but also to prepare for the possibility of a next global health crisis.