Don’t vaccinate kids, but give doses to Covax: WHO chief

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during the media briefing on May 14, 2021 (Screenshot of WHO video/Courtesy WHO)


GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — The WHO urged wealthy countries Friday to stop vaccinating children against Covid-19 and instead donate doses to poorer nations, while warning that the pandemic’s second year looked set to be more deadly.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voiced outrage that a number of rich countries were now vaccinating children and teenagers, while poorer states had barely begun vaccinating health workers and the most vulnerable groups.

Instead of offering jabs to young and healthy people, he called on countries to give their doses to the Covax global vaccine-sharing scheme and thereby ensure that those most in need in all countries receive protection.

“In January, I spoke about the potential unfolding of a moral catastrophe,” he told a press conference.

“Unfortunately, we’re now witnessing this play out. In a handful of rich countries, which bought up the majority of the supply, lower-risk groups are now being vaccinated.

“I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to Covax.

“Because in low and lower-middle income countries, Covid-19 vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunise healthcare workers, and hospitals are being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently.”


WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 12: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and the ongoing vaccination program at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on May 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden spoke on the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and over and the country wide efforts to increase vaccination rates. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
Joel Lee, 14, receives his Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine administered by medical assistant Karina Cisneros from St. John’s Well Child & Family Center at Abraham Lincoln High School in Los Angeles, California on May 13, 2021, on the first day of availability of the vaccine for the 12-15 year old age group. – The campaign to immunize America’s 17 million adolescents aged 12-to-15 kicked off in full force on May 13, a key part of President Joe Biden’s strategy to push the country close to herd immunity. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)


Nearly 1.4 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been injected in at least 210 territories around the world, according to an AFP count.

Some 44 percent of the doses have been administered in high-income countries accounting for 16 percent of the global population.

Just 0.3 percent have been administered in the 29 lowest-income countries, home to nine percent of the world’s population.

– ‘Bittersweet’ –
In the face of this inequity in access, Tedros warned that the world would likely see more deaths this year than last, despite the arrival of vaccines.

“We’re on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first,” he said.

“Saving lives and livelihoods with a combination of public health measures and vaccination — not one or the other — is the only way out.”

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 3.3 million people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

Tedros, 56, meanwhile said that he had been vaccinated against Covid-19 earlier this week in Geneva, the Swiss city where the WHO is based.

“It was a bittersweet moment,” he said, explaining that his thoughts were with health workers around the world who had been battling the pandemic.

“The fact that so many are still not protected is a sad reflection on the gross distortion in access to vaccines across the globe,” Tedros said.

© Agence France-Presse