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WHO chief criticizes vaccine benefits, demands older people come first

“It is right that all governments want to prioritize immunizing their own health workers and the elderly first,” he said. “But it’s not fair that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries. be enough vaccine for everyone. “

Tedros, an Ethiopian who bears his first name, nevertheless praised the scientific achievement behind the deployment of coronavirus vaccines less than a year after the pandemic broke out in China, where a WHO-backed team has now been deployed to examine the origins of the coronavirus.

“Vaccines are the bullet in the arm that we all need, literally and figuratively,” Tedros said. “But we now face the real danger that while vaccines may bring hope to some, they become another brick in the wall of inequality between the worlds of the haves and have-nots.

He noted that the WHO-supported COVAX program, which aims to distribute vaccines to all countries, rich or poor, as needed, has so far obtained 2 billion doses of vaccine from five producers and options for a billion more doses.

“We aim to start deliveries in February,” he said. “COVAX is ready to deliver what it was created to deliver.”

That target date could be a tall order, as a key producer of vaccines for the developing world – the Serum Institute of India – has not confirmed a date and predicts that its deployment may not take place until March or April.

In his opening remarks, Tedros broadcast some of his harshest public statements to date against vaccine manufacturers, criticizing “bilateral deals” between them and countries which the WHO says may deplete the effectiveness of the vaccine. ‘COVAX facility – and went further to raise the issue of profits.

“The situation is made worse by the fact that most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries, where the profits are the highest, rather than submitting complete dossiers to the WHO,” a- he declared.

This appears to allude to a dearth of data the United Nations health agency says it has received from vaccine manufacturers so that WHO can approve their vaccines for wider emergency use.

Dr Clement Martin Auer, board member from Austria, had some sharp words and questions for GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, which, along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, is also leading the effort on COVAX.

While calling its principles of equal access to vaccines a “fantastic idea”, Auer criticized COVAX for being “slow” and incapable of concluding “a crucial number” of contracts. He defended the European Union, which has among its 27 members many countries of the world. richest countries, for having vaccinated its 450 million citizens and for having been “the biggest donor” by supporting COVAX.

“We in the European Union were skeptical that GAVI-COVAX had the means and capacities to fulfill its tasks and negotiate the necessary contracts and to meet the needs of our citizens,” Auer said, adding that the COVAX management had “rejected” proposals negotiated by GAVI and the EU.

He said GAVI-COVAX at the start of last year did not include mRNA vaccines like those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in the COVAX portfolio.

“This was a major mistake, considering that mRNAs are the first to market and the gold standard for COVID vaccines,” Auer said.

The WHO has approved Pfzier-BioNTech for emergency use against the coronavirus and may approve Moderna this week.

WHO officials or other board members did not immediately address Tedros’ concerns during the meeting.

In the vaccine news, Israel has struck a deal with Pfizer, promising to share vast amounts of medical data with the international drug giant in return for the continuous flow of its hard-to-obtain vaccine.

Supporters say the deal could allow Israel to become the first country to vaccinate most of its population, while providing valuable research that could help the rest of the world. But critics say the deal raises major ethical concerns, including possible breaches of privacy and a deepening global divide in access to coronavirus vaccines.

Due to the ultra-cold storage required for the Pfizer vaccine, it is more expensive and more difficult to use than some competitors, including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, but studies show it to be very effective. Israeli media reported that Israel paid at least 50% more than other countries for the Pfizer vaccine.


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