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WHO Warns Of ‘Dangerous Moment’ Amid Spike In Covid-19 Cases

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World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns of a "dangerous moment" in the northern hemisphere. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Amid a global surge in Covid-19 cases, the only way to fully recover is by working together and ensuring poorer countries have fair access to a vaccine, the head of the World Health Organization said Sunday, stressing that “vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic, not shorten it.”

KEY FACTS

WHO head Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual World Health Summit that the northern hemisphere faces a “dangerous moment” amid a surge of new Covid-19 cases. 

Tedros said outbreaks around the world are being seen as a result of lifting economic and social restrictions too soon, adding that we know fundamental public health measures — like testing, isolating and contact tracing — work. 

While recognizing the natural instinct of countries to protect their own citizens first, Tedros warned against “vaccine nationalism,” noting that if and when the world has an effective vaccine it must be used “effectively.”

 “And the best way to do that is to vaccinate some people in all countries rather than all people in some countries,” he said.

For emphasis, Tedros repeated his claim that “vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic, not shorten it.”

KEY BACKGROUND

Many countries have been seeing new spikes in Covid-19 cases after strict lockdown measures enacted to control the spread of the virus are relaxed. Europe has been especially hard hit, with France reporting record new infections for the fourth consecutive day..

With the global race to develop a vaccine entering its final stages, there is worry among the international community  that wealthy countries will hoard available supplies. In September, Oxfam found that wealthy countries — representing just 13% of the world’s population — had already secured more than half of the expected supply of leading vaccine candidates.  

Beyond questions of fairness, such hoarding could, as Tedros notes, prolong the pandemic for everyone, including those in wealthy countries. WHO itself is leading the COVAX initiative to tackle this problem, set up with a goal to ensure equitable access to vaccines around the world.

FURTHER READING

Cases Top 43 Million; WHO Sees ‘Dangerous Moment’: Virus Update (Bloomberg)

By Robert Hart, Forbes Staff

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