By Cecilia Ologunagba
World Health Organisation (WHO), Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, says Africa with the lowest vaccination coverage at two per cent is unacceptable, calling G20 Health Ministers to support regional vaccine manufacturing.
Ghebreyesus told the G20 health ministers meeting in Rome that almost 75 per cent of those doses have been administered in just 10 countries, while Africa had the lowest vaccination coverage at two per cent.
The director-general pointed out that: “Many countries continued to face steep increases in cases and deaths” – despite that more than five billion vaccines had been administered globally.”
According to him, WHO’s global targets are to support every country to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of its population by the end of September, at least 40 per cent by the end of the year, and 70 per cent by the middle of next year.
“We can still reach these targets, but only with the commitment and support of G20 countries,’’ he averred.
As the largest producers, consumers and donors of COVID-19 vaccines, he upheld that they hold the key to achieving vaccine equity and ending the pandemic.
“We can never allow a pandemic on this scale to happen again. And we can never allow an injustice like this to happen again,” the WHO chief added.
The WHO boss stated that global responses to the pandemic must be grounded in certain core principles.
He outlined; “they must have the engagement and ownership of all countries; be multisectoral, involving partners from across the One Health spectrum.
” They must also be linked to and aligned with WHO’s mandate; and ensure coherence with the International Health Regulations and other international instruments.
“And they must be accountable and transparent,” underlined the UN official.
Against this backdrop, the WHO chief spoke of four critical areas for action, beginning with better global governance.
“An international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response will strengthen the foundation for global cooperation, setting the rules of the game, and enhancing solidarity among nations,” he said.
The second point, he noted, was more and better financing for national and global preparedness and responses.
“Financing facilities must be built using existing financial institutions, rather than creating new ones that further fragment the global health architecture,” Ghebreyesus asserted.
He added that WHO had already taken steps toward better systems and tools across the One Health spectrum, his third action.
He noted, ” the need for a “strengthened, empowered and sustainably financed WHO to fully realise the Organization’s broad mandate.
“Redressing this imbalance is critical if WHO is to be the independent and authoritative institution the world needs it to be.’’
In addition, the WHO chief urged the G20 health ministers to swap near-term delivery schedules with COVAX by fulfilling dose-sharing pledges and sharing technology, know-how and intellectual property to support regional vaccine manufacturing.
He also requested that they support the development and adoption of a legally binding international agreement on pandemic preparedness and response.
“They should also strengthen WHO by backing initiatives that strengthen, not weaken, its mandate,” he urged.