UNITED NATIONS ( Associated Press) – The number of countries where 10% or less of the population has been vaccinated since January dropped from 34 to 18, a UN official leading global vaccination efforts against the coronavirus said on Monday and called for quick progress to end the pandemic.
Assistant Secretary-General Ted Chaiban told the UN Security Council that more than 6 million people died of COVID-19 reported to the World Health Organization in the past 24 hours and, with just over 1 million new coronavirus infections, across countries Increasing vaccination is urgent. Where it was not possible to boost rates in 2021.
“The next six months are crucial,” he said. “In 2022, we must take the necessary swift action to accelerate vaccination. The window of opportunity is slowly closing. We risk losing momentum and failing vaccine equity. ,
Chaiban said more than 11.1 billion doses of vaccines have been given globally, and that 124 of the WHO’s 194 member states have vaccinated more than 40% of their population and 51 countries have reached more than 70%.
However, the rate is only 11% in low-income countries, he said. In the WHO’s Africa region, 83% of people live without vaccination, and in its eastern Mediterranean region, which includes Afghanistan, 51% have not received vaccination for the first time.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in February called Chaiban, a senior UN children’s agency UNICEF official, of the UN team to help ensure an effective global response to the pandemic and close the gap in vaccine availability and distribution. appointed to lead. It will also provide financial and technical support to overcome vaccine barriers.
Chaiban said the recently concluded campaign in Ethiopia increased vaccination coverage from 4% in January to more than 20%, including in some conflict-affected areas. In the conflict-hit Central African Republic, he said, focus group discussions, strong community engagement including TV and radio spots with leaders and influencers, and youth mobilization have led to the vaccination of about 19% of the population.
Chaiban told the council he was speaking by video link from Congo, where this week a UN team will meet with government officials and key partners “in urgent need to expand vaccination coverage in this country of nearly 100 million people”. and to better address the barriers.”
Dr. Esperanza Martínez, Senior Adviser to the Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that vaccination and other health-related activities in conflict-affected areas are “incredibly difficult”.
“The good news is that as the supply of vaccine doses increases, so does the potential for shortages in weapons,” she said.
To achieve this, Martinez said, the Security Council must ensure that international humanitarian law requiring the protection of health workers and facilities is respected, making coronavirus vaccination part of a broader effort to improve health and Health systems of conflict-affected countries should be strengthened. He said that community participation in vaccination activities is the key to gain public trust.
“We’ve seen vaccines run out on airport tarmac in Afghanistan, Nigeria, South Sudan and many other places,” Martinez said. “Some of these vaccines were wasted because they arrived with too short an expiration date, others because the health system of the receiving country was unprepared to distribute them.”
To address the critical vaccine equity gap, the UN’s Chaiban urged the Council to continue supporting two resolutions that called for a ceasefire and increased global cooperation to facilitate vaccination in key conflict areas.
He urged countries to pledge $4.8 billion at a virtual summit on Friday to help promote vaccination “in tangible support” to low-income countries.
Chaiban also called on council members to advocate for and help guarantee unhindered human access to vaccine supplies and doses and to invest in primary health care “as a key element of future pandemic preparedness”. requested.