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WHO chief decries COVID vaccine hording by wealthy nations

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Warning that vaccine hording by wealthy nations would drag out the pandemic, World Health Organisation chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that these countries should avoid mistakes of the past. Dr Tedros expressed his displeasure at the skirmish among wealthy countries to secure vaccines when poorer nations are yet to receive adequate doses 

“The pandemic has exposed and exploited the inequalities of our world,” he told journalists, warning that there now was “the real danger that the very tools that could help to end the pandemic -– vaccines –- may exacerbate those same inequalities.”

“Vaccine nationalism might serve short-term political goals. But it’s ultimately short-sighted and self-defeating,” he said.

The WHO co-leads the COVAX facility, which is working to procure vaccines and ensure doses are delivered equitably around the world.

The facility expects to begin delivering doses within a few weeks, and Tedros said the aim was for vaccination of health workers and older people to be underway in all countries within the first 100 days of 2021.

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WHO has stressed many times that the only way to defeat the pandemic and improve the world economy is to ensure that the priority groups in all countries get coronavirus vaccine.

Tedros urged the world avoid repeating past mistakes, pointing to the HIV/AIDS crisis, where wealthy countries acquired life-saving medicines nearly a decade before they became affordable in poorer countries.

He also pointed to the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, when vaccines only reached poorer nations after the outbreak was over. 

“I don’t think that is a good history. It is bad history,” he said.

The WHO chief cautioned that “if we hoard vaccines, and if we are not sharing… there will be a catastrophic moral failure.”

But in addition, he warned, “it keeps the pandemic burning, and…(will) slow global economic recovery.”

“Is that what we want? It is our choice.”

(With AFP inputs)

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