WHO shares two statistics that show the huge issue with the global fight against COVID

Emily Cleary
A notice about the shortage of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine supplies is seen at a vaccination centre, in Mumbai, India, April 8, 2021. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A notice about the shortage of coronavirus vaccine supplies is seen at a vaccination centre in Mumbai, India, on Thursday. The World Health Organization has warned of a global inequality in vaccine distribution (REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas)

The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed the disparity of global coronavirus vaccine distribution during a briefing on COVID-19 to international media.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in high-income countries, an average of almost one in four people has received a vaccine. In low-income countries, it is one in more than 500.

Ghebreyesus said: "There remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines.

"More than 700 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 87% have gone to high income or upper middle-income countries, while low income countries have received just 0.2%.

"Let me repeat that: one in four versus one in 500."

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) speaks after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases during the 148th session of the Executive Board on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Geneva, Switzerland, January 21, 2021.  Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said there remains a "shocking imbalance" in the global distribution of vaccines (Christopher Black/WHO/via REUTERS)

At the start of 2021 the WHO called for vaccination programmes to begin in every country in the world within the first 100 days of the year. 

Saturday 10 April will be day 100.

Ghebreyesus added: "Out of 220 countries and economies, 194 have now started vaccination, and 26 have not. Of those, 7 have received vaccines and could start, and a further 5 countries should receive their vaccines in the coming days.

"That leaves 14 countries who have not yet begun vaccination, for a range of reasons. Some have not requested vaccines through COVAX, some are not yet ready, and some plan to start in the coming weeks and months."

Read more: What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

And the director general highlighted the need for governments to consider sharing their vaccine supplies, saying: "Most countries do not have anywhere near enough vaccines to cover all health workers, or all at-risk groups, never mind the rest of their populations.

"This is a time for partnership, not patronage.

"Scarcity of supply is driving vaccine nationalism and vaccine diplomacy."

Last week, India - the second most populated country in the world - launched its most ambitious vaccination programme yet, aiming to administer 400 million vaccines in order to curb the growing third wave of infections in the country.

However by Friday signs could be seen outside vaccination centres advising that supplies had run out.

Almost 32 million Britons have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, with 6.5 million having received both doses.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, amid the coronavirus disease pandemic, in London, Britain March 19, 2021. Frank Augstein/Pool via REUTERS
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, amid the coronavirus disease pandemic, in London, Britain March 19, 2021. Frank Augstein/Pool via REUTERS

The UK's vaccination programme is the largest of its kind ever seen in the country.

This week the safety of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was again called into question when the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said people under 30 should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna jabs instead.

It followed an investigation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which found an "extremely small" number of blood clot cases – 79 – among more than 20 million AstraZeneca doses administered up to 31 March. There were 19 deaths.

Speaking at a televised briefing at the Department of Health on Wednesday, Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, made a point of reiterating: "This is extremely rare."

Questions have also been raised about whether receiving a COVID-19 vaccination could affect fertility, but England's deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, dismissed the fears in during a Q&A with Sky News.

He said: "First of all it is just not biologically logical that they would. Secondly, no vaccine has ever done this.

"Getting COVID does affect your long-term chances of life and that's a pretty important counter-balance."

Watch: Do coronavirus vaccines affect fertility?