Davos: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday said the vaccine nationalism will prolong the COVID-19 pandemic as he expressed concern that some countries are rolling out vaccines only for their own citizens while the world's least developed nations only wait and watch.
Speaking at the last day of the week-long online Davos Agenda Summit of the World Economic Forum, he said many countries are rolling out vaccines for their own people, but it is leaving the most vulnerable people of the world at a big risk.
Ghebreyesus said it would be exactly one year on Saturday since the WHO's emergency committee declared a public emergency of international level regarding COVID-19.
Incidentally, he was in Davos for the 2020 Annual Meeting of the WEF in January last year when he had to midway leave the summit for the emergency meeting.
"The pandemic has exposed and exploited the inequalities of our world," he said.
"There is now the real danger that the very tools that could help to end the pandemic- the vaccines- may exacerbate those same inequalities," the WHO chief said.
He said, "Vaccine nationalism will only prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering... If we lose trust in international collaboration through vaccine nationalism, we will all pay the price in terms of a protracted recovery."
He said the WHO is asking those governments that have already received deliveries of vaccines to vaccinate their health workers and older people, and share excess doses with COVAX (an alliance of vaccine makers for COVID-19) so other countries can do the same.
Speaking in the same session, Norway's Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide also called for global solidarity.
"The only exit strategy from this pandemic is to work together," she said.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said countries had to vaccinate their own populations to earn public support for international measures, and that if Germany started sending doses elsewhere in the world while it had only vaccinated 3 percent of its own people, it would not be accepted by Germans.
"If you want a country like Germany to be engaged as we are investing in international vaccine programmes, of course we also need to vaccinate our own people. So it's about the right balance," Spahn said.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said there were tensions as every country wanted to get the vaccines.
He said there had been a "small bump: in supply in Europe for a few weeks while the company increased production capacity.
"The quantities promised in the beginning of December we will catch up by March," he said, adding that supply this year would now increase from a previous estimate of 1.3 billion doses to more than 2 billion doses.