WHO: Unacceptable for rich to step over poor for vaccine access

United Nations, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- The head of the United Nations agency responsible for international public health said Friday that the rich and powerful cannot be allowed to step over the poor in their rush to gain access to a Covid-19 vaccine.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made his remarks on the final day of a two-day virtual UN summit on the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a global crisis and the solutions must be shared equitably as global public goods, not as private commodities that widen inequalities and become yet another reason some people are left behind,” he told the 193-member UN General Assembly.

The WHO chief said there must be both a global and country-by-country effort to ensure that economic status does not determine who is able to become immunized.

“Let me be clear. We simply cannot accept a world in which the poor and marginalized are trampled by the rich and powerful in the stampede for vaccines,” Tedros said.

In that regard, he called on the wealthiest countries to provide more financing for WHO initiatives that aim to ensure that vaccines and treatments are distributed as widely as possible.

Tedros added that those nations will themselves reap the benefit of their investments.

“We can now start to see the light at the end of the tunnel” thanks to the rapid development of several vaccines, he said, though also cautioning against a perception that the coronavirus crisis is over. “The Covid-19 pandemic still has a long a way to run, and decisions made by leaders and citizens in the coming days will determine both the course of the virus in the short term and when this pandemic will ultimately end.”

Separately, the WHO director-general slammed the management of the illness by some governments, without singling any of them out, and stated that a number of countries have shown that the pandemic can be successfully contained with good health policy and “sacrifice.”

“Many countries have succeeded in preventing or containing widespread transmission of Covid-19 with proven public health tools. This is not a fluke of geography or demography. These countries have proven that with science, solidarity and sacrifice this virus can be tamed,” Tedros said.

“But where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by division, where sacrifice is substituted with self-interest, the virus thrives,” he added.

Tedros also urged the international community to prepare better for the next health crisis of this magnitude, recalling that many countries were caught off-guard by the coronavirus.

“Many mistakenly assumed their strong health systems would protect them,” he said.

While dozens of heads of state and government spoke on the first day of the UN General Assembly’s special meeting on the coronavirus pandemic, Friday’s main speakers were directors of international organizations and the leaders of some companies developing vaccines.

UN World Food Programme chief David Beasley said Friday that 2021 is “literally going to be catastrophic based on what we’re seeing at this stage of the game.”

Next year will likely be “the worst humanitarian crisis year since the beginning of the United Nations” in 1945, he said. “We’re not going to be able to fund everything … so we have to prioritize, as I say, the icebergs in front of the Titanic.” EFE-EPA


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