Developed countries' hoarding of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and other tools are prolonging the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
“It is the hoarding of these materials, we saw at the beginning of the pandemic with PPE. But this is not just unfair, it is not just immoral, it is prolonging the pandemic and it is resulting in people dying," said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, during an event streamed on social media platforms.
Vaccines are being shipped to poor countries through the international COVAX facility, backed by the WHO and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).
However, richer nations have come under fire for stockpiling COVID-19 jabs as many underdeveloped countries with low inoculation rates and rising infections struggle to get supplies.
"The developed world and the industrialized world just does not seem to get it. It really does not. It talks, the rhetoric is fine, it is all about sharing, it is all about fairness, but in reality, when push comes to shove and these products are available, they are hoarded in countries and they are not shared," said the head of WHO's emergencies program, Mike Ryan.
A little over 230 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to 139 countries under COVAX, GAVI data shows, against a target to secure 2 billion doses for lower-income countries by the end of 2021.
Ryan said the situation regarding access to therapeutics is also inequitable.
Ryan said no treatment was safe or efficient enough to be deployed on a larger scale yet but warned that the distribution will need to be fair.