The Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is pictured during a “Fridays for the future” protest in front of the Swedish parliament Riksdagen in Stockholm on October 9, 2020.
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on Monday urged world leaders to do more against Covid-19 vaccine inequality, describing the growing gap between the number of shots fired in high-income countries and those administered in low-income countries as “tragedy.”
Currently, an average of one in four people in high-income countries has received a Covid vaccine, compared to just one in more than 500 people in low-income countries.
The trend continues despite repeated warnings from health professionals that delaying the fair distribution of vaccines around the world could ease the emergence of new strains of the disease and prolong the pandemic.
Thunberg will donate 100,000 euros to the WHO Foundation through her foundation to support COVAX, an initiative that advocates fair access to Covid vaccines worldwide.
“The international community must do more to address the tragedy of vaccine inequality. We have the means to correct the great global imbalance in the fight against COVID-19,” Thunberg said in a statement.
“Just like with the climate crisis, we need to help the most vulnerable first. That is why I support WHO, Gavi and everyone involved in the COVAX initiative, which I believe is the best way to ensure real vaccine equity is a way out of the pandemic” , added her.
Thunberg said earlier this month that she will not be attending this year’s COP26, a high-profile United Nations climate change summit, if current vaccination trends continue.
“It is completely unethical for high-income countries to vaccinate young and healthy people now if it does so at the expense of people in risk groups and on the front lines in low- and middle-income countries,” Thunberg said during a virtual WHO briefing.
“This is a moral test, we’re talking about showing solidarity today and yet vaccine nationalism is what drives vaccine distribution,” she added.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, thanked Thunberg for her advocacy for the justice of the vaccine and for the donation to COVAX. He said Thunberg was the youngest person to have contributed to the initiative at the age of 18.
“Greta Thunberg has inspired millions of people around the world to take action to tackle the climate crisis and her strong support for vaccine justice to fight the COVID-19 pandemic reaffirms her commitment to making our world a healthier, safer and more just place for all to make people, “said Tedros.
“I urge the world community to follow Greta’s example and do everything possible to support COVAX and protect the world’s most vulnerable people from this pandemic,” he added.
Tedros previously said that one of WHO’s top priorities is to increase COVAX’s ambitions to help all countries end the pandemic.
COVAX should deliver nearly 100 million vaccines to humans by the end of March, but has only distributed around 38 million doses to date.
Workers stand by an airplane that has delivered the first batch of PfizerBioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty) at Kiev International Airport, Kiev, capital of Ukraine. (Photo credit should be Pavlo_Bagmut / Ukrinform / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Pavlo Bagmut | Ukrinform | Barcroft Media via Getty Images
WHO hopes the initiative can catch up in the coming months, but condemns what it calls a “shocking imbalance” in the distribution of vaccines between high and low-income countries.
The health department has also criticized countries that, for political or commercial reasons, sought their own vaccine agreements outside the COVAX initiative.
The international drive to secure a wide range of Covid vaccines may make sense from a single country perspective, but has resulted in deep inequalities in terms of global allocation.
Canada, for example, bought enough Covid vaccines to vaccinate its entire population five times. This is based on data compiled by researchers at Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center.
At a virtual G7 summit in February, the group of major economies made a statement pledging to “step up cooperation on the health response to Covid-19”.
“The G-7 also pledged support for” affordable and equitable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, reflecting the role of comprehensive immunization as a global public good. “