WHO Director on nationalisation of vaccine and reaction to Pope's words
The Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that all nations must work together in the fight against Covid-19.
During the World Health Organization’s media briefing on Covid-19 on Tuesday, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke about the logistics challenges involved in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his statement, Ghebreyesus noted numerous logistics failures in the initial response to the disease, saying “Supply nationalism exacerbated the pandemic and contributed to the total failure of the global supply chain."
This led to a serious lack of key supplies for dealing with the novel coronavirus in several nations. Even now, he said, “many countries still do not have enough.”
Ghebreyesus said it is imperative to learn from past mistakes. “While there is a wish amongst leaders to protect their own people first,” he said, “the response to this pandemic has to be collective.”
“This is not charity,” he added. “We have learned the hard way that the fastest way to end this pandemic and to reopen economies is to start by protecting the highest risk populations everywhere, rather than the entire populations of just some countries.”
Ghebreyesus also insisted on the need “to prevent vaccine nationalism.” After a vaccine is developed, he said, the WHO recommends first allocating vaccines proportionally “to all participating countries simultaneously, to reduce risk”; and then, in phase two, for consideration to be given “to countries in relation to threat and vulnerability.”
Solidarity for a joint solution
The WHO Director said this means “elite planning at the highest levels is needed right now to prepare to vaccinate and treat the world as new technologies come down the pipeline.”
He insisted, “As we accelerate the science, solidarity is needed to provide a joint solution to the pandemic.”
“Like an orchestra,” Ghebreyesus said, “we need all instruments to be played in harmony to create music that everyone enjoys.” He said the WHO “will work to bring the band together, to promote science, solutions, and solidarity because we believe to our core that we do it best, when we do it together.”
Pope Francis on the Vaccine
A day later, during the weekly Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis also touched on the need for the Covid-19 vaccine to be accessible to everyone. In a series dedicated to healing a world dealing with the coronavirus, he said that plans to treat the disease should prioritize "those who are most in need. It would be sad if, for the vaccine for Covid-19, priority were to be given to the richest! It would be sad if this vaccine were to become the property of this nation or another, rather than universal and for all."
added 21 August
WHO Director voices support for the Pope
Following Pope Francis's remarks, Dr Ghebreyesus voiced his support for the Pope's position. "I couldn't agree more with Your Holiness," he wrote in a Tweet Thursday evening. "The #Covid19 pandemic shows that we must make health a human right for all and not allow it to be a privilege for the few," adding, "It also gives us an opportunity to rebuild a better, safer, fairer world - together!"
The WHO Director was responding to a statement from Wednesday's General Audience: "The response to the pandemic is therefore dual. On the one hand, it is essential to find a cure for this small but terrible virus, which has brought the whole world to its knees. On the other, we must also cure a larger virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalisation, and the lack of protection for the weakest." The Pope's remarks were paraphrased in tweet posted on the Holy Father's Twitter feed, @Pontifex.
This article was originally published on 19 August, and updated on 21 August.