WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 8 January 2021

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WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 8 January 2021
:: COVAX – set up by GAVI, CEPI and WHO in April last year – has now secured contracts of 2 billion doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, which we are ready to rollout as soon as the vaccines are delivered.  
:: However, this is where the current challenge is. Rich countries have bought up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines.  Going forward, I want to see manufacturers prioritise supply and rollout through COVAX.  
:: If I said one thing to people in areas where there are high numbers of cases, it would be to do all you can to avoid mixing with people from other households, especially inside.  
:: This year is the year of the health and care worker. Let’s show our respect and appreciation for health workers by protecting each other and vaccinating all health workers everywhere now. 

COVAX – set up by GAVI, CEPI and WHO in April last year – has now secured contracts of 2 billion doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, which we are ready to rollout as soon as the vaccines are delivered. And we also have the right of first refusal on an additional 1 billion doses.

However, this is where the current challenge is: At present, 42 countries are rolling out safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. 36 of these are high-income countries and six are middle-income.

So there’s a clear problem that low- and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet. This is a problem we can and we must solve together through COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator.

At the outset, rich countries have bought up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines. Now we’re also seeing both high and middle-income countries, that are part of COVAX, making additional bilateral deals. This potentially bumps up the price for everyone and means high-risk people in the poorest and most marginalized countries don’t get the vaccine.

And some companies and countries have not submitted critical data, which we need to issue Emergency Use Listings, which blocks the whole system of procurement and delivery.   

Vaccine nationalism hurts us all and is self-defeating. But on the flipside, vaccinating equitably saves lives, stablises health systems and would lead to a truly global economic recovery that stimulates job creation…

…Going forward, I want to see manufacturers prioritise supply and rollout through COVAX.

I urge countries that have contracted more vaccines than they will need, and are controlling the global supply, to also donate and release them to COVAX immediately, which is ready TODAY to rollout quickly.

And I urge countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of COVAX. No country is exceptional and should cut the queue and vaccinate all their population while some remain with no supply of the vaccine.

Science has delivered, let’s not waste the opportunity to protect lives of those most at risk and ensure all economies have a fair shot at recovery…