Some 42 countries across the world have started vaccinating their high-risk populations with various COVID-19 vaccines.
Out of the 42 countries, 36 are high-income and six, upper middle-income countries.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), has said the availability of vaccines was giving real hope of bringing the pandemic under control in the next 12 months.
In his opening remarks at a media briefing on COVID-19 on Thursday, he said some countries pursuing new deals outside of COVAX offering higher prices, was clearly a problem, which could get worse.
“This compromises our collective commitment to equitable access, we have to take action to address this, 190 countries and economies committed to the COVAX Facility and we expect all stakeholders to ensure vaccines are distributed as swiftly and equitably as possible to all countries, we have a collective responsibility to make this a reality,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.
He said history would not judge the world kindly if it failed the low and middle income countries in their “hour of need.”
“We can only recover faster as a global community by sharing the vaccine in the best interest of each and every country,” he added.
Dr Ghebreyesus lauded WHO staff for working with the European Commission and multiple Member States to implement the new COVAX Facility Dose-Sharing principles with the goal of having the first donations by the end of January or early February, this year.
He said the Organisations had also evaluated the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which led to the WHO issuing its first COVID-19 Emergency use listing for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr Ghebreyesus said WHO had evaluated and issued Emergency Use Listing for two auto destruct syringes to ensure countries had the best possible tools to safely rollout the COVAX vaccine.
The Director General said this week a WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization was convened to discuss policy recommendations for the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
He said the Group had recommended that health workers be prioritised for vaccination, followed by elderly persons.
That, according to the Experts, was the fastest way to stabilise health systems, restore essential health services and stimulate a truly global economic recovery.
“The hundred-hundred initiative driven by WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank is supporting over 100 countries to conduct rapid readiness assessments and develop country-specific plans for vaccines and other COVID-19 tools,” the Director General said.
Dr Ghebreyesus said so far more than 90 countries had completed the assessments and that WHO teams were working around the clock to ensure that governments and health systems were ready for global vaccine rollout.
He called for concerted efforts from all to reduce cases as quickly as possible while efforts were being made to increase production and rollout of vaccines.