The United Nations Secretary-General and the head of the World Health Organization on Thursday launched an ambitious strategy to vaccinate 40% of the world’s population against COVID-19 by the end of this year and 70% by the middle of 2022.
UN chief Antonio Guterres told a news conference: “With vaccine production now about 1.5 billion doses per month, we can reach 40% of people in all countries – if we can raise some $8 billion to ensure that the distribution is uniform.” .
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that 6.5 billion doses have already been given worldwide. Another 5 billion is needed to meet the 70% benchmark, which Tedros said current vaccine manufacturing rates can handle.
“It’s not a supply problem, it’s an allocation problem,” he said, adding that it is important that priority is given to the elderly, health care workers and other at-risk groups.
An earlier target of vaccinating 10% of each country’s population by the end of September has fallen short, with 56 countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East, unable to meet the target. WHO said those countries needed 200 million doses to meet the 10% target.
“That’s a week’s worth of global supplies,” said Catherine O’Brien, WHO’s director of vaccines and biologicals. “If that can’t be achieved, there really needs to be a good point on that.”
To reach the 40% benchmark, Tedros urged countries that have already achieved high coverage to swap their places in the vaccine delivery line with countries that have less access.
“We can achieve our goals only if countries and companies first contract for COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) for delivery and donate doses,” Tedros said. “We have the tools to bring the pandemic under control if we use them properly and share them appropriately.”
WHO officials said that achieving the 40% vaccination target would essentially end the acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic, but if the target cannot be reached, the risk of new variants emerging that could be vaccine resistant continues. Huh.
“It’s ambitious, but it’s very possible,” said Bruce Aylward, Tedros’ senior advisor. He said that the doses are paid for, but the issue is prioritizing them for delivery through the COVAX facility and AVAT, so they reach countries that are lagging.
The strategy also urges vaccine-producing countries to share technology and licenses to help other countries scale up production of the dose. It also calls on vaccine manufacturers to prioritize fulfilling contracts with COVAX and AVAT, so doses go to the countries most in need. International financial institutions also have a role to play in helping countries access the funds needed for home delivery of supplements.
The WHO said that a three-stage approach to vaccination should be adopted, targeting the elderly, health care workers and high-risk groups, followed by all adults and finally adolescents.
There have been more than 236.67 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 4.8 million deaths worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, which tracks global data on infections.