The World Health Organization has told wealthy countries that they “cannot speed the way out of the pandemic” and accuses them of worsening vaccine inequality.
Meanwhile, Nigeria said today it burned more than a million doses of Covid vaccine that were donated by developed countries a few months ago and have since passed their expiration dates.
Africa’s most populous country has fully vaccinated four million people to date – less than three percent of the adult population and well below the government’s target of 112 million people by the end of next year.
In a speech on Wednesday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the rush in richer countries to introduce additional doses of Covid vaccine is exacerbating inequality in access to vaccines, which is prolonging the global pandemic.
The UN health agency has long warned of the blatant inequality in access to Covid vaccines, which has left many at-risk people in poorer countries without a single stab as richer countries institute extensive refresher programs.
A truck unloads on the 22nd. Nigeria said today it burned more than a million expired doses of the Covid vaccine
Pictured: A graph comparing the proportion of the fully vaccinated population in some of the world’s richest nations to some of the world’s poorest
“Flat-rate booster programs will likely extend the COVID-19 pandemic rather than end it by diverting supplies to countries that already have high vaccination rates and give the virus more opportunities to spread and mutate,” the WHO said Boss told reporters.
“No country can accelerate its way out of the pandemic.”
A number of the richest countries in the world, such as the US, UK, France, and Germany, have given at least two doses to over 60 percent of their population.
Others, like Spain, Portugal, and Singapore, have given over 80 percent of their population at least two doses.
However, some of the nation’s poorest countries – particularly in Africa but also in the Middle East – have given two doses of just under 20 percent.
His comments came as the lightning strike of the Omicron variant around the globe since it was first discovered in South Africa last month has dampened hopes that the worst of the pandemic is over.
The new variant is spreading at an unprecedented rate and has already been detected in 106 countries, the WHO announced.
Early data suggests that the highly mutated variant is not only more transmissible than previous strains, but could also better evade some vaccine protection measures, although additional doses appear to increase the level of protection.
But Tedros said Wednesday that the existing vaccines continue to provide significant protection against serious illnesses from Omicron.
Some samples of expired AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines will be seen at the Gosa landfill in Abuja, Nigeria on December 22, 2021
In a speech on Wednesday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (pictured on Monday) said the rush in richer countries to introduce additional doses of Covid vaccine is exacerbating inequality in access to vaccines, which is prolonging the global pandemic
“It is important to remember that the vast majority of hospital admissions and deaths occur in unvaccinated people rather than unvaccinated people,” he said.
He also stressed that we must all take all necessary precautions to stop the spread of Covid when we go into the Christmas holidays.
“Boosters cannot be viewed as tickets to any planned celebration,” he said.
The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization said Wednesday that at least 126 countries around the world have already made recommendations on boosters or additional doses of vaccine, and 120 have started implementing those programs.
“No low-income country has yet implemented a booster program,” it said in a statement.
Faisal Shuaib of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency said Wednesday the country had been forced to destroy millions of jabs.
A nurse will give Aggeliki Koutraggeli, 90, a second dose of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 at her home in Athens, Greece on Wednesday December 22, 2021
“We have successfully withdrawn around 1,066,214 doses of expired AstraZeneca vaccines,” he said.
“When we were offered these vaccines, we knew they had a short shelf life, but we lived in an environment where the supply of Covid-19 vaccines was very scarce, they were not available due to vaccine nationalism,” he said .
Rich countries, he said, hoarded jabs and then offered them for donation “at the point where they would expire”.
Nigerian officials said Monday the country was facing a fourth wave of the pandemic, demanding strict rules compliance during the holiday season.
The country’s health watchdog, the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), says the number of Covid cases has increased 500 percent in the past two weeks, powered by the Delta and Omicron variants.
With a population of 220 million, authorities have recorded around 225,000 cases with fewer than 3,000 deaths since the pandemic began.
Experts attribute the relatively low numbers in part to low test rates and a widespread lack of awareness of the disease, the symptoms of which are often similar to those of malaria.
Vaccination hesitation or skepticism is also common.
Nigeria was drawn to a disastrous clinical trial in 1996 that resulted in 11 children dying and dozens disabled after vaccination for meningitis.