Giving COVID-19 vaccines
is a "moral catastrophe," according to the World Health Organization
's head, because front-line health care
workers and vulnerable populations in many countries lack access to the life-saving shots.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
urged richer countries to donate their vaccines to countries facing severe vaccine shortages before administering shots to children, who are considered a low-risk group.
“I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but for the time being, I urge them to reconsider and instead donate vaccines to COVAX,” the director-general said during a news conference, referring to a WHO-backed initiative promoting equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
"In January, I spoke about the potential unfolding of a moral catastrophe; unfortunately, we are now witnessing this play out. Lower risk groups are now being vaccinated in a handful of rich countries that purchased the majority of the supply"[email protected]
://t.co/Tqs0FnEgGh— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) May 14, 2021
Only 0.3% of vaccines have gone to low-income countries, according to Ghebreyesus, because a "handful of rich countries that have bought up the majority of the vaccine supply" have already begun vaccinating lower-risk groups.
His comments come just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recommended that children as young as 12 receive the Pfizer
children can be infected with the coronavirus
, but they are much less likely to develop severe symptoms than adults. According to data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics, less than 2% of all COVID-19 cases involving children in the United States resulted in hospitalization.
The WHO director-general has repeatedly emphasized the staggering disparity in global vaccine distribution, noting last month that while one in every four people
in high-income countries had already received a vaccine, only one in every 500 people in low-income countries had received a shot.
Ghebreyesus warned that if the vaccine is not distributed more equitably, the pandemic
, which is still raging in countries such as India
and Brazil, will worsen and kill more people.
“The second year of this pandemic is on track to be far more lethal than the first,” he said.