The head of the World Health Organization is urging leaders of wealthy, developed G7 countries to help the U.N. backed COVID-19 vaccination program boost access to doses in the developing world.
With G7 leaders set to meet in Cornwall, England later this week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus again called on rich countries Monday to do more to battle inequality in accessing coronavirus vaccines.
Tedros recently announced a target of vaccinating at least 10% of the population in every country by the end of September and 30% by year-end.
Tedros says to meet these targets, the U.N. needs hundreds of millions of vaccine doses in June and July and an additional 250 million doses by September.
“These seven nations have the power to meet these targets,” Tedros said, looking ahead to the summit of leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
“I’m calling on the G7 not just to commit to sharing those, but to commit to sharing them in June and July.”
He also warned countries facing outbreaks of new variants like the so-called delta variant which first appeared in India about lifting COVID-19 restrictions too quickly, saying it “could be disastrous for those who are not vaccinated.”
The emergencies chief of the U.N. health agency says COVID-19 vaccination coverage of over 80% percent is needed to significantly lower the chance that an imported coronavirus case could generate new cases or spawn a wider outbreak.
Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization said that ultimately, “high levels of vaccination coverage are the way out of this pandemic.”
His comments in Geneva to reporters on Monday come as rich nations with access to vaccines are facing pressure from WHO and many global health advocates to share more doses with developing countries that are gravely lacking in access to them.
Britain has been looking at a recent uptick in cases attributed largely to an increase in cases linked to the so-called delta variant, which originally appeared in India — a former British colony.
Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, noted that the delta variant is spreading in more than 60 countries, and is more transmissible than the alpha variant – which first emerged in Britain.