GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The global vaccine-sharing facility (COVAX) will distribute 14.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 31 more countries next week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday as it warned people not to waste, through complacency, the hope that vaccines bring.
COVAX shipped more than 20 million doses to 20 countries as the scheme aimed at ensuring poorer nations get access to jabs took off this week.
But the WHO voiced fears that further waves of the coronavirus pandemic could be on the way if people think the roll-out of vaccines around the globe means the crisis is over.
“I really am very concerned that… we think we’re through this. We’re not,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a press conference. “And countries are going to lurch back into third and fourth surges if we’re not careful. We should not waste the hope that vaccines bring… by dropping our guard in other areas.”
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the first full week of the COVAX roll-out, but said wealthy countries were nonetheless still leaving others behind in the vaccination rush.
Within Africa, Angola, the DR Congo, The Gambia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda have now received their first doses through Covax.
Elsewhere, Cambodia, Colombia, India, Moldova, the Philippines and South Korea have also taken deliveries.
“In the next week, COVAX will deliver 14.4 million doses to a further 31 countries. That brings the total number of countries to 51,” said Tedros.
“This is encouraging progress, but the volume of doses being distributed through COVAX is still relatively small.”
He said the first round of allocations, running until the end of May, only covered between two and three per cent of the population in recipient states, “even as other countries make rapid progress towards vaccinating their entire population within the next few months.”
He called for vaccine production to be urgently ramped up, including through linking manufacturers with rival companies that have spare capacity.
Tedros also said the planet would be feeling the mental scars from the pandemic for years to come and said the scale of its impact would be worse than during the recovery from World War II.
“The whole world is affected. Each and every individual. That means mass trauma which is beyond proportion. Even bigger than what the world experienced after the Second World War,” he said.
“And when there is mass trauma it affects communities for many years to come. Countries have to see it as such and prepare for that. Mass, mass trauma.”