The World Health Organization’s director-general warned on Monday that the coronavirus pandemic “is a long way far from over” as he appealed for more funding for the agency’s response plan. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there “appears to be a mindset that the pandemic is over” in countries with high vaccination rates, but warned that “no one is safe until we are all safe.”
Tedros also called for vaccine manufacturers to give COVAX the right of first refusal on any additional supply allotments. Tedros said the COVAX initiative is falling short of its supply goal, mostly due to case surges in areas that had committed to supply the coalition, such as India.
“COVAX works and has so far delivered 65 million doses to 124 countries and economies, but it is dependent on countries and manufacturers honoring their commitment,” he said during a press briefing. “While we appreciate the work of AstraZeneca, who have been steadily increasing the speed and volume of their deliveries, we need other manufacturers to follow suit.
He said that while Pfizer and Moderna have pledged millions of doses to COVAX, the majority will not arrive until the second half of 2021, or 2022, and there is an immediate need for supply.
“Once the devastating outbreak in India recedes, we also need the Serum Institute of India to get back on track and catch up on its delivery commitments to COVAX,” Tedros said. “Furthermore, we need high-income countries that have contracted much of the immediate global supply of vaccines to share them now. I call on manufacturers to publicly commit to helping any country that wants to share their vaccines with COVAX to lift their contractual barriers within days, not months.”
On Monday, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would be sending 20 million doses of its authorized vaccine supply to other countries in the coming weeks. The administration had previously committed to sending 60 million doses of the yet-to-be-authorized AstraZeneca overseas, bringing the total to around 80 million. The U.S. previously sent 4 million doses to Mexico and Canada.
“The situation in a number of countries continues to be very concerning,” Tedros said. “The pandemic is a long way far from over, and it will not be over anywhere until it is over everywhere.”