“We need to prevent vaccine nationalism,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a virtual press conference, calling for pooling of tools to help the world fight COVID -19.
He said he had sent “a letter to all Member States on Tuesday to encourage them” to join the future global access mechanism for the Covid-19 vaccine, known as COVAX.
He was joined by Bruce Aylward, adviser to the WHO chief, who said the terms of the scheme were being finalized, but stressed that more than 170 countries – representing nearly 70% of the world’s population – have already indicated their interest in joining the mechanism or have expressed interest.
“We expect a firm response from countries by 31 August,” he said.
While the race for vaccines is intensifying, the pandemic of the new coronavirus has caused nearly 775,000 deaths worldwide since the end of December, according to a report compiled by AFP from official sources.
Once the vaccines become available, the WHO proposes that they will be allocated in two phases via the Covax mechanism.
“In the first phase, doses will be allocated proportionally and simultaneously to all participating countries (in Covax, editor’s note) in order to reduce the overall risk. In phase 2, the threat and vulnerability of countries will be taken into account,” explained Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“The fastest way to end this pandemic and reopen economies is to start by protecting the populations most at risk everywhere, rather than the entire populations of just a few countries,” he argued.
He explained that “priority will be given to front-line workers in health and social care facilities, as they are essential to treat and protect the population and are in close contact with groups at high risk of mortality”, namely those over 65 years of age and those with co-morbidities.
“For most countries, an allocation (of vaccines, editor’s note) during phase 1 to reach 20% of the population would cover most risk groups,” the WHO chief said.