WHO decries unequal access to vaccines, calls for global changes￼
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of “highly unequal access” to vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases in rich and poor countries, calling for global market changes.
According to the WHO, for example, the vaccine against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, has only been introduced in 41 per cent of low-income countries.
WHO said in a report published on Wednesday that this was compared to 83 per cent of high-income countries.
“Affordability can also be an obstacle, as sometimes middle-income countries actually pay more than wealthier ones due to price differences. The right to health includes the right to vaccines,” stated WHO director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus.
However, the report showed that free market policies are depriving some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people of this right.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, about 16 billion vaccine doses worth $141 billion were delivered in 2021, almost three times the market volume of pre-COVID 2019.
The figures showed further potential for scaling up vaccine production.
However, the WHO noted that production was in the hands of a few manufacturers.
The global health body further stated that apart from COVID-19 vaccines, just 10 companies supplied 70 Per cent of other vaccine doses in 2021.
It said that Some of the 20 most commonly used vaccines, such as those against rubella and measles, came from only two suppliers.
According to WHO, monopolies on intellectual property and limited technology sharing restrict the ability to build and use local production capacities.
It also said another threat was posed by the limited investment in vaccines, which are only in demand during outbreaks such as cholera, typhoid, monkeypox and Ebola.
These factors could be “devastating to people’s lives,” stressed the report.
Furthermore, it said the response to the COVID-19 pandemic proved that vaccines could be developed in a fraction of the time previously required.
Therefore, to advance equitable access to vaccines, the WHO urged governments to develop clear vaccination plans, strengthen oversight of vaccine development, production and distribution, and explore regional research and production centres.
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