The World Health Organisation director-general is calling on pharmaceutical companies to share manufacturing facilities to help ramp up the production of Covid-19 vaccines.
Speaking at an online news briefing from Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said almost 130 countries, with a combined population of 2.5 billion people, were yet to administer a single dose of vaccine.
Dr Tedros repeated his plea for rich nations to share doses with poorer countries once they had vaccinated health workers and older people.
“But we also need a massive scale-up in production,” he said.
“Last week, Sanofi announced it would make its manufacturing infrastructure available to support production of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
“We call on other companies to follow this example.”
French drug maker Sanofi said it would will fill and pack millions of doses of Pfizer’s vaccine from July, aiming to help supply more than 100 million doses this year from its German plant to meet massive demand.
Dr Tedros applauded manufacturers who had pledged to sell their vaccines at cost. But he called on companies to do more.
“Having received substantial public funding, we encourage all manufacturers to share their data and technology to ensure global, equitable access to vaccines and we call on companies to share their dossiers with WHO faster and more fully than they have been doing so we can review them for emergency use listing,” he said.
Dr Tedros said the number of vaccinations worldwide had overtaken the number of reported coronavirus infections.
But he called for a more equitable distribution of those immunisations.
“In one sense, that is good news and a remarkable achievement in such a short timeframe,” he said of the global vaccination rate.
“But, more than three-quarters of those vaccinations are in just 10 countries that account for almost 60 percent of global GDP.
“Almost 130 countries with 2.5 billion people are yet to administer a single dose.
“Some countries have already vaccinated large proportions of their population who are at lower risk of severe disease or death.”
Tribute to NHS fundraiser Sir Tom
Dr Tedros also paid tribute to Captain Sir Tom Moore, the British war veteran who raised more than £30m ($NZ57.2m) for the UK’s National Health Service. He died in Bedford Hospital last week after suffering pneumonia and Covid-19.
“Captain Sir Tom was a reminder of the value we should put on older people and everything they bring to our world,” Dr Tedros said.
“However, there is a disturbing narrative in some countries that it is OK if older people die. It is not OK. No-one is dispensable.
“Every life is precious, regardless of age, gender, income, legal status, ethnicity or anything else.
“And that is why it is so important that older people everywhere are prioritised for vaccination.”