Vaccine inequality

By Kenny Stancil
September 27, 2022

If wealthy countries think the Covid-19 pandemic is over, as U.S. President Joe Biden claimed earlier this week, they should do everything in their power to help low-income nations get to that point as well, a World Health Organization official said Friday.

In an interview, WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward told Reuters: “When I hear them say, ‘Well, we’re so comfortable here,’ it’s like, ‘Great, now you can really help us get the rest of the world done.’”


“If you go to sleep right now and this wave hits us in three months... God – blood on your hands,” he added, urging rich nations not to retreat amid what remains an “acute global emergency,” in the words of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Aylward’s comments come just days after Biden said “the pandemic is over” – an assertion he made as Covid-19 kills nearly 11,000 people across the planet each week, including roughly 3,000 in the U.S. alone. More than 1 million people worldwide died from the disease during the first eight months of 2022, and the number of fatalities caused directly and indirectly by the ongoing public health crisis that began in late 2019 surpassed 15 million earlier this year.

According to Reuters, “Aylward said that the group he coordinates, which focuses on equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests worldwide, is not yet ready to move out of the emergency phase of tackling the pandemic and that countries need to be ready and have treatments in place for any further waves of infection.”

Experts are anticipating a coronavirus surge this fall and winter that could infect hundreds of millions of people around the world, potentially leading to millions of hospitalizations and hundreds of thousands of additional deaths.

While the U.S. has had comparatively good access to vaccines, tests, and treatments for the duration of the pandemic, the money undergirding their free provision is disappearing. Although Biden has pleaded with Congress to authorize billions of dollars in additional spending – including funds that would be directed toward international efforts – Senate Republicans have refused, and his recent downplaying of the pandemic has bolstered their demands for austerity.

People in impoverished countries, meanwhile, have never had the same access to lifesaving Covid-19 medical tools. Billions of people in Africa and other parts of the Global South remain completely unprotected due to a combination of dose hoarding by high-income nations and knowledge hoarding by pharmaceutical corporations.

This deadly inequality was further cemented in June when Big Pharma-aligned policymakers – most of them from highly vaccinated parts of Europe – defeated a widely supported proposal to temporarily waive the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) corporate-friendly intellectual property rules, which sought to unleash generic production and boost the global supply of jabs, diagnostics, and therapeutics.

Excerpted: “Blood On Your Hands’ If Global Poor Hit With Covid Wave, WHO Official Tells Rich Nations’.