The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has called on Covid jab manufacturers to prioritise contracts with the UN-led equitable vaccines initiative, COVAX, saying "it's not a matter of charity, it's a matter of epidemiology".
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was speaking at WHO's regular bi-weekly briefing for journalists on the UN health agency's latest efforts to curtail the pandemic, reports UN News.
He began by praising Friday's pledge from leaders of G7, to intensify cooperation and increase their overall contribution to the international effort under the ACT Accelerator programme, to around $7.5 billion.
COVAX is working to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics to end the crippling march of coronavirus, Tedros said, expressing his thanks to the EU nations for committing an extra $4.3 billion last week.
One step closer
"These funds and donations move us one step closer to meeting our target to start vaccination of health workers and older people in all countries, within the first 100 days of the year," said Tedros.
But all countries needed to step up, he said, adding that money was far from the only challenge: "If there are no vaccines to buy, money is irrelevant. Currently, some high-income countries are entering into contracts with vaccine manufacturers that undermine the deals that COVAX has in place, and reduce the number of doses COVAX can buy.
"Even if we have the funds, we can only deliver vaccines to poorer countries if high-income countries cooperate in respecting the deals COVAX has done and the new deals it is doing. This is not a matter of charity, it's a matter of epidemiology."
Funding gap persists
The WHO chief said that there was still a funding gap of nearly $23 billion to "fully finance" the entire ACT Accelerator vaccine initiative.
To make sure the most at risk in low- and middle-income countries get their shots first, "we need more funding, we need countries to share doses immediately, we need manufacturers to prioritise contracts with COVAX, and we also need a significant increase in the production of vaccines", Tedros said.
"More vaccines are being developed, approved and produced. There will be enough for everyone," he noted. "But for now, and for the rest of this year, vaccines will be a limited resource. We must use them as strategically as we can."