UNITED NATIONS: New coronavirus variants like Delta, which was first found in India, are “currently winning the race against vaccines”, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference.
While talking to media in Geneva on Wednesday, the WHO chief said that passing the four millionth recorded death worldwide from COVID-19 was a “tragic milestone” which “likely underestimates the overall toll” of the deadly virus.
Tedros warned that far too many countries were seeing “sharp spikes in cases and hospitalization”, while rich nations with high inoculation rates, were dropping public health measures “as though the pandemic is already over.”
The situation is leading to an acute shortage of oxygen and treatments, and driving a ‘wave of death’ in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
“At this stage in the pandemic, the fact that millions of health and care workers have still not been vaccinated is abhorrent”, he added.
Tedros reminded that ‘vaccine nationalism’, where a handful of nations have taken the lion’s share, is ‘morally indefensible’ and an ineffective public health strategy against a respiratory virus that is mutating quickly and becoming increasingly successful at infecting new hosts.
“Variants are currently winning the race against vaccines because of inequitable vaccine production and distribution…It didn’t have to be this way and it doesn’t have to be this way going forward”, he underscored.
He said the spread of variants would also threaten the global economic recovery, noting that from a “moral, epidemiological or economic” standpoint, now is the time for the world to come together.
Tedros called on leaders of the G20 economies, set to meet later this week, to take urgent steps to end the acute stage of the pandemic, providing the necessary funding to scale up equitable manufacturing and distribution of health tools.