WHO flags inequalities in vaccine distribution

The head of the World Health Organization has expressed concern over inequalities between rich and poor countries in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that affluent nations had bought up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines at the outset. He noted both high and middle-income countries are now making additional bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies.

Tedros said there is a clear problem that low-income and most middle-income countries are not yet receiving the vaccine.

He said at present, 42 countries are rolling out safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. He added 36 of them are high-income countries and six are middle-income.

Tedros urged countries to donate vaccines if they have contracted for more doses than they will need. He said they can release them to an international framework co-led by the WHO and other entities for a fair distribution of inoculations. He also urged countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals.

Referring to a planned visit by a group of international experts to China, Tedros said he expects to fix a travel timetable as soon as next week.

The WHO had hoped to dispatch the team in the first week of January to probe the origins of the coronavirus. But earlier this week China refused entry to two team members who had already begun their journeys.

Tedros on Tuesday expressed disappointment over China's failure to finalize permissions for their entry.