Chennai: The Covid-19 vaccine divide between rich and poor nations is worsening by the day, the World Health Organisation warned, insisting the failure to distribute doses fairly could cost the global economy trillions of dollars.
The WHO said it needed $26 billion this year for its programme aimed at speeding up the development, procurement and equitable delivery of vaccines, treatments and tests to beat the coronavirus pandemic.
“Rich countries are rolling out vaccines, while the world’s least-developed countries watch and wait,” lamented WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Every day that passes, the divide grows larger between the world’s haves and have nots,” he said.
“Vaccine nationalism might serve short-term political goals. But it’s in every nation’s own medium and long-term economic interest to support vaccine equity”.
Tedros cited a study commissioned by the Research Foundation of the International Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 45 million companies in over 100 countries.
“Vaccine nationalism could cost the global economy up to $9.2 trillion, and almost half of that, $4.5 trillion, would be incurred in the wealthiest economies,” he said.
The report said that the financial damage of the pandemic in wealthy countries could not be fixed unless the impact of the crisis in developing nations was also addressed, due to the inter-connectivity of economies around the globe.
Tedros said investing in the so-called ACT Accelerator programme, to try to curtail the pandemic on a pooled and equitable basis, was therefore not charity, but simply ‘economic common sense’.
Tedros said that exactly a year ago, fewer than 1,500 cases of Covid-19 had been reported to the WHO, including just 23 outside of China, where the first clusters of infections were discovered.
“This week, we expect to reach 100 million reported cases”, said Tedros.
“Vaccines are giving us hope, which is why every life we lose now is even more tragic. We must take heart, take hope and take action”.
He urged people to stick to the basics of physical distancing, hand washing, avoiding crowds and wearing masks while waiting their turn to get immunised.