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World is failing…vaccine stocks for poor nations are down to zero, says WHO

The World Health Organisation has sounded a warning about lack of vaccines for low-income countries

Rich countries are vaccinating young people who are not at great risk from COVID-19, while there are no vaccines for the poorest countries, the World Health Organization said at a press conference in Geneva on Friday.

"It's not hesitancy. It's lack of vaccines. And the situation in many low-income countries, especially Africa is very worrisome," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"There is no vaccine. You can't even talk about delivery or absorption capacity when there's no vaccine," he lamented.

Also read: India’s surge in Covid cases deprives UN agencies of frontline fighter in war on pandemic

"Our world is failing, as a global community we are failing," he told a news conference.

"We have through COVAX this month zero doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, zero doses of SII vaccines (Serum Institute of India), zero doses of J & J (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine," said Bruce Aylward, WHO senior adviser.

"Every single one of our suppliers is unable to supply during this period because others are making demands on those products, others who are vaccinating very young populations that are not at risk. The situation right now is dire," Aylward explained.

The ferocious second Covid wave that hit India in April has come as a major setback as the country was a major supplier of vaccines to the WHO and has to now concentrate on dealing with the pandemic on the home front.

Tedros said the situation in Africa, where new infections and deaths have suddenly surged by close to 40% during the last week is dangerous as the Delta variant is spreading in at least 85 countries.

Also read: India’s Serum Institute rolls out 1st batch of Novavax vaccine, likely to hit market in Sept

He criticised the rich countries, without naming them, for reluctance to share doses with low-income countries. He compared it to the HIV/AIDS crisis, when some argued that African nations were unable to use complicated treatments.

He said this attitude has to be a thing of the past as the problem now was  a supply problem as there are no vaccines to distribute.

"The difference is between the haves and the have nots which is now completely exposing the unfairness of our world – the injustice, the inequality, let's face it," he said.

COVAX, run jointly by the GAVI vaccine alliance and the WHO, has delivered 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 132 countries since February.