World Health Organisation (WHO) says it has delivered nearly 96 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 135 countries.
The organisation also said it delivered other essential health products through COVAX.
WHO’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, disclosed this to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) High-Level Political Forum at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The forum which started on Tuesday will end on July 15.
It is expected to discuss ways to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It will also focus on the lessons, successes, shortcomings and plans to come out from the health crisis.
Ghebreyesus said that the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered through COVAX was a peanut considering that a total of over three billion doses of the vaccines had so far been delivered.
“Vaccine inequities and vaccine nationalism are further deepening the divide between high and lower-income nations.
“Most lower-income countries still do not have enough vaccine to cover their most vulnerable and at-risk populations, let alone the rest of their populations.
“We are working day in and day out to turn things around; we are seeing encouraging signs, with commitments from vaccine producing countries to share hundreds of millions of doses.
“The World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and WHO are working together to accelerate access and delivery of vaccines and other COVID-19 health tools to developing countries,’’ he said
According to him, if countries immediately share doses with COVAX and if manufacturers prioritise COVAX orders, at least 10 per cent of the population of every country can be vaccinated by September and 40 per cent by the end of 2021.
“Vaccine equity is the best way to control the pandemic and get economies opened and moving again.
“Over the longer-term, we also need to greatly expand and invest in local production so that the world will not be dependent upon just few countries to produce vaccines and other essential health products,’’ he said.
The director-general said the pandemic had shown that relying on few companies to supply global public goods was limiting and risky.
“WHO is calling for sharing of know-how, technology and licences, and the waiving of intellectual property rights.
“In May, the World Health Assembly adopted a landmark resolution on strengthening local production of medicines and other health technologies to improve access.
“Over 100 countries co-sponsored the resolution, clearly signalling their commitment to changing the paradigm and distributing production capacity more equitably,’’ he said.
According to him, WHO is working with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to establish a technology transfer hub, which would include mRNA technology.
He said the pandemic had shown that without local health security, there could be no global health security.
“That is why the SDGs – which address an array of interlinked essential targets – are so important.
“The pandemic has set us back even further. We now expect a shortfall of 710 million people to a billion more people covered by universal health coverage by 2023.
“Strengthening health systems, particularly through primary health care, is essential for equitable and resilient recovery, “the director-general said.
He said the pandemic had revealed at the global level, a profound gap, a deficit of solidarity and sharing – sharing information, resources, technology and tools that every nation would need to keep its people safe.
“We have to learn the lessons of COVID-19. As we respond to this pandemic, we have to prepare for the next one.
“At the recent World Health Assembly, WHO member-states agreed to consider the proposal for a pandemic treaty.
“WHO believes such a treaty can provide the basis for improved preparedness, detection and response, and improved cooperation to identify the origins of new pathogens.’’
Ghebreyesus said a treaty would foster improved sharing, trust and accountability, and help to strengthen national, regional and global capacities for global health security.
He suggested three priorities for countries to achieve universal health coverage by 2023.
The director-general said countries would need to urgently share COVID-19 vaccine doses with COVAX.