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COVID-19 lays bare social inequality says UN chief, as COVAX doses top 36 million

Mali begins its vaccination program against COVID-19 with Fanta Siby, Minister for Health, the first to be inoculated. UNICEF/Seyba Keïta


The COVID crisis “has revealed how unequal our societies are” said the UN chief in his message for World Health Day released on Monday.

Highlighting the inequalities and injustices that have been apparent throughout the pandemic, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the day to be marked on Wednesday, that the vast majority of vaccine doses administered so far, have been confined to “a few wealthy countries” or those producing the shots cleared for distribution.

“Within countries, illness and death from COVID-19 has been higher among people and communities that contend with poverty, unfavourable living and working conditions, discrimination and social exclusion”, said Guterres.

Countries forced to ‘watch and wait’

Thanks to the COVAX initiative, the UN backed international effort to provide equitable vaccines across the world, more countries are receiving doses, “but most people in low and middle income countries still must watch and wait”, the UN chief added.

“Such inequities are immoral, and they are dangerous for our health, our economies and our societies.”

86 countries reached

To date, COVAX has shipped more than 36 million doses to 86 countries, the UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told correspondents at UN Headquarters on Monday.

Algeria received more than 36,000 doses over the weekend from COVAX, he said, helping to accelerate the vaccination campaign already underway there.  

“The UN Resident Coordinator, Eric Overvest, said the new doses will help ensure that no one is left behind”, Mr. Dujarric added. “Our teams on the ground have helped to train healthcare workers, sensitize people on vaccines, and supported the cold chain. 

And in Laos, the country has vaccinated more than 4,000, including frontline healthcare workers, with doses received from COVAX, Mr. Dujarric told reporters.

The UN team, led by the Resident Coordinator Sara Sekkenes Tollefsen, is supporting the country’s vaccination campaign, which began on Friday.  

More than 130 million cases

As of April 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) is reporting that there have been nearly 131,021,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including more than 2,850,520 deaths.

Up to the end of March, there had been 547,727,346 vaccine doses administered worldwide.


Vaccines for all

“As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must implement policies and allocate resources so all can enjoy the same health outcomes”, said Guterres.

That will involve reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, he added, “and it means delivering universal health coverage so everyone, everywhere, can thrive.”

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