Following accusations of siding with China and covering up the cholera epidemic in Ethiopia, the World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom recently sparked controversy after suggesting that ‘wealthier nations’ must donate the Coronavirus vaccines, meant for teenagers and children, to the poorer countries.
While highlighting that the second year of the pandemic is going to be deadlier than the first, he expressed his ‘displeasure’ over how rich countries have been vaccinating children, teenagers, and healthy individuals. Tedros Adhanom surmised that poor countries have not even started inoculating the healthcare workers and those vulnerable to the deadly virus. He instead suggested the ‘wealthy’ countries donate the vaccine doses, meant for the children and teenagers, to the Covax global vaccine sharing scheme and thereby rescue poor nations.
“In January, I spoke about the potential unfolding of a moral catastrophe,” he told a press conference. Unfortunately, we’re now witnessing this play out. In a handful of rich countries, which bought up the majority of the supply, lower-risk groups are now being vaccinated. I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to Covax,” the WHO chief said.
Wealthier nations should postpone plans to give Covid-19 vaccines to children and teenagers and instead donate supplies to low-income countries: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization @WHO— Prasar Bharati News Services पी.बी.एन.एस. (@PBNS_India) May 15, 2021
(File Pic) pic.twitter.com/caYMl0D5zw
He further claimed, “Because in low and lower-middle-income countries, Covid-19 vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunise healthcare workers, and hospitals are being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently.” Reportedly, about 1.4 billion Coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered so far in 210 global territories. However, about 44% of the vaccines have been administered in wealthy nations compared to 0.3% in 29 poor countries.
“We’re on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first. Saving lives and livelihoods with a combination of public health measures and vaccination – not one or the other – is the only way out…The fact that so many are still not protected is a sad reflection on the gross distortion in access to vaccines across the globe,” he concluded.
The World Health Organization (WHO) found itself in a tough spot in the wake of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. It was accused of ‘siding with’ the Chinese government by none other than the president of the United States himself. WHO and its director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had come under severe criticism for their conduct since the pandemic broke out in China. The organization took long enough in declaring it a pandemic, leading to countries not being vigilant enough on time.
WHO Chief accused of covering up cholera epidemic in Ethiopia
Tedros was accused of covering up epidemics in his home country in Ethiopia even while he was the health minister in the government, days before he became the director of the WHO. A prominent global health expert, who was also an informal advisor to Tedros’s rival for the WHO top spot, had accused him of covering up to three epidemics in Ethiopia.
“Dr. Tedros is a compassionate and highly competent public health official,” Lawrence O. Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, said. He added, “But he had a duty to speak truth to power and to honestly identify and report verified cholera outbreaks over an extended period.” Tedros was Ethiopia’s health minister between 2005-12 and outbreaks had occurred in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
He had said these were only “acute watery diarrhoea” in areas where testing is “difficult”. However, in 2007, the UN and other aid agencies insisted that laboratory tests showed that the deaths were due to cholera. Ethiopia was also accused of covering up a cholera epidemic in 2017. New York Times reported that the Ethiopian government was saying the same thing in 2017 that Tedros had said on previous occasions.