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Just give us the vaccines, WHO pleads, as poor countries go wanting

The situation in Africa, where new infections and deaths jumped by nearly 40% last week compared to the previous week, is "so dangerous" as the Delta variant spreads globally, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

June 26, 2021 / 07:43 AM IST
World Health Organization

World Health Organization

Rich countries are opening up societies and vaccinating young people who are not at great risk from COVID-19, while the poorest countries cruelly lack doses, the World Health Organization said on Friday, condemning a global failure.

The situation in Africa, where new infections and deaths jumped by nearly 40% last week compared to the previous week, is "so dangerous" as the Delta variant spreads globally, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"Our world is failing, as the global community we are failing," he told a news conference.

Tedros, who is Ethiopian, chastised unnamed countries for reluctance to share doses with low-income countries. He compared it to the HIV/AIDS crisis, when some argued that African nations were unable to use complicated treatments.

"I mean that attitude has to be a thing of the past," Tedros said. "The problem now is a supply problem, just give us the vaccines."

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"The difference is between the haves and the have nots which is now completely exposing the unfairness of our world - the injustice, the inequality, let's face it," he said.

Many developing countries are much better than industrialised countries in carrying out mass vaccination of their populations against infectious diseases from cholera to polio, WHO's top emergency expert Mike Ryan said.

"The level of paternalism, the level of colonial mindset that say 'we can't give you something because we're afraid you won't use it'. I mean seriously, in the middle of a pandemic?"

COVAX, run jointly by the GAVI vaccine alliance and the WHO, has delivered 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 132 countries since February, but has faced major supply issues since India suspended vaccine exports.

"We have through COVAX this month zero doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, zero doses of SII vaccines (Serum Institute of India), zero doses of J & J (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine," said Bruce Aylward, WHO senior adviser.

"The situation right now is dire."



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Reuters
first published: Jun 26, 2021 07:39 am
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