World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus on Monday called on rich countries not to make additional vaccine purchases that could hamper efforts to begin coronavirus vaccinations in poor and middle-income countries.
Speaking at a news conference following his virtual meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Tedros welcomed recent financial pledges by G7 countries for the UN-led COVAX initiative, but said they are facing difficulties in getting vaccines from the manufacturers.
"Even if you have the money, if you cannot use the money to buy vaccines, having the money doesn't mean anything," Tedros said, adding that he has informed Steinmeier on the problems they are facing.
"Some high-income countries are actually approaching manufacturers to secure more vaccines, which is affecting the deals with COVAX. And even the amount that was allocated for COVAX was reduced because of this," he said.
Tedros called on high-income countries to make sure, before making any request from a vaccine manufacturer, that their additional purchases would not undermine the deals made by the COVAX.
He said politicians in rich countries should clearly explain to their voters that starting vaccination in poorer or developing countries is in the interest of all.
"They should speak to their constituencies saying: 'The best way to protect you is not only to vaccinate you but vaccinate the rest of the world, share the vaccine with the rest of the world'," he stressed.
"If this virus is not defeated everywhere, we cannot defeat it globally. It will have a safe haven somewhere, and can strike back, even if some places are left and are delayed in terms of vaccination."
Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned against the global vaccine inequality, stressing that 10 high-income countries had so far administered 75% of all vaccinations, while more than 130 countries have not received a single dose.
The UN-led COVAX initiative, which is financing vaccines for developing nations and poorer countries, is planning to begin vaccine distributions later this month.
The initiative has so far concluded contracts with manufacturers AstraZeneca, BioNTech, and Serum Institute of India, and planning to distribute up to 337 million vaccine doses to more than 130 countries from the end of this month till mid-2021.