World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned that ‘vaccine nationalism’, where countries roll out vaccines only for their own citizens, will only prolong the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his speech on the last day of the week-long online Davos Agenda Summit of the World Economic Forum, the WHO chief remarked that countries choosing to offer COVID-19 vaccines to only their citizens is leaving the world at a bigger risk as lesser privileged, most vulnerable people of the world are left without the vaccine.
Dr. Ghebreyesus’ address came on the eve of the first anniversary of WHO’s emergency committee declaring a public emergency of international level concerning COVID-19.
“The pandemic has exposed and exploited the inequalities of our world,” the WHO official pointed out adding that there is now the real danger that the very tools that could help to end the pandemic, the vaccines, may aggravate those same inequalities.”
“Vaccine nationalism will only prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it and human and economic suffering… If we lose trust in international collaboration through vaccine nationalism, we will all pay the price in terms of a protracted recovery,” Dr. Ghebreyesus stated.
The WHO Director-General observed that his international body has been urging governments that have already received deliveries of vaccines to vaccinate their health workers and older people to share excess doses to its COVAX initiative, an alliance of vaccine makers for COVID-19 so that others could follow the example.
Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide took the opportunity to call for global solidarity while stating that the only exit strategy from this pandemic is to work together.
Sharing a different point of view on the matter, German Health Minister Jens Spahn pointed out that nations had to vaccinate their own populations to earn public support for international measures, and that if Germany started sending doses elsewhere in the world while it had only vaccinated 3 percent of its own people, it would not be accepted by its citizens.