Weak global solidarity ‘bottlenecking’ equitable vaccine distribution, says WHO Director-General

By Payne Lubbers

(Bloomberg) – A lack of political will and weak global solidarity are the “mother of all bottlenecks” to ensuring an equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to low-income countries, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Countries should waive intellectual-property protections around their Covid-19 vaccines to make the shots more accessible, he said Friday in an online discussion hosted by the World Bank. The provisions in the World Trade Organization’s rules around IP were meant to waive IP protections during emergencies.

“We haven’t seen any emergency like this in our lifetime,” Ghebreyesus said. “If we cannot use it now, then when are we going to use it?” The lack of the use of the waiver is “the elephant in the room,” he said.

India and South Africa have offered a proposal that seeks a broad waiver from the WTO’s rules on the production and export of vaccines and other critical medical goods needed to combat the Covid-19 virus. The waiver would enable poorer nations without the means to develop vaccines and other medical technologies to do everything they can to treat their citizens without fear of punitive trade retaliation.

As of Thursday, 40% of the Covid-19 vaccines administered globally have gone to people in 27 wealthy nations that represent 11% of the global population. Countries making up the least-wealthy 11% have gotten just 1.6% of Covid-19 vaccines administered so far, according to an analysis of data collected by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

–With assistance from Riley Griffin.

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