The head of the World Health Organization is warning against what he calls “vaccine nationalism,” saying that sharing supplies is in each country’s national interest.
“We have learned the hard way that the fastest way to end this pandemic and to reopen economies is to start by protecting the highest risk populations everywhere, rather than just the populations of some countries,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said at a press conference Tuesday. “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
“It’s critical that countries don’t repeat the same mistakes,” he added. “We need to prevent vaccine nationalism. And for this reason, WHO is working with governments and the private sector to both accelerate the signs through the ACT Accelerator and ensure that new innovations are available to everyone, everywhere.”
The allocation of vaccines through the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is slated to be rolled out in two phases, according to Tedros. In the first phase, vaccines will be allocated proportionally to all participating countries simultaneously to reduce overall risk. In the second phase, consideration will be given to countries in relation to threat and vulnerability.
Tedros noted that front-line workers in health and social care settings will be prioritized because they are essential to treating and protecting populations and also come in close contact with people in age groups at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19.
“For most countries, a phase one allocation that builds up to 20% of the population would cover most of the at-risk groups,” he said. “If we don’t protect this highest risk people from the virus everywhere and at the same time, we can’t stabilize health systems and rebuild the global economy.”
Dozens of potential vaccines for the novel coronavirus are undergoing clinical trials around the world. Last week, Russia became the first country in the world to officially register a COVID-19 vaccine and declare it ready for use. However, Moscow approved the drug before completing its final Phase III trial, and no scientific data has been released from the early trials so far.