More than three-quarters of the 128 million COVID vaccines administered so far around the world have been provided in just 10 countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have highlighted.
In a joint statement, they pointed out that almost 130 countries "are yet to administer a single dose". Some 2.5 billion people live in these countries.
"This self-defeating strategy will cost lives and livelihoods, give the virus further opportunity to mutate and evade vaccines and will undermine a global economic recovery," commented WHO director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF executive director, Henrietta Fore.
Both organisations called on world leaders "to look beyond their borders and employ a vaccine strategy that can actually end the pandemic and limit variants".
"Health workers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic in lower and middle-income settings and should be protected first so they can protect us. COVAX-participating countries are preparing to receive and use vaccines. Health workers have been trained, cold chain systems primed. What's missing is the equitable supply of vaccines," they said.
COVAX is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The WHO and UNICEF called on Governments that have vaccinated their own health workers and populations at highest risk of severe disease to share vaccines through COVAX, so other countries can do the same.
They also called on vaccine manufacturers to allocate the limited vaccine supply equitably; to share safety, efficacy and manufacturing data as a priority with the WHO for regulatory and policy review; to step up and maximise production; and to transfer technology to other manufacturers who can help scale the global supply.
"We need global leadership to scale up vaccine production and achieve vaccine equity. COVID-19 has shown that our fates are inextricably linked. Whether we win or lose, we will do so together," the organisations added.
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