The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the COVID-19 pandemic will not end until the unequal distribution of life-saving vaccines between rich and poor countries ends.
In an assessment, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the world is still in the grips of a pandemic that shows no sign of going away, noting that more than 3.3 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19 in 2021.
That, he said, is more deaths than from HIV-Aids, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
Dr Tedros said the odds of this turning around any time soon are not good, adding that there is a body of evidence that the new omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading significantly faster than the delta strain.
He said it is likely that people who are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 could be infected or re-infected.
“None of us wants to be here again in 12 months’ time talking about missed opportunities, continued inequity or new variants,” Dr Tedros said.
“If we are to end the pandemic in the coming year, we must end inequity by ensuring 70 percent of the population of every country is vaccinated by the middle of next year.”
Statistics show at least half of the world’s population has received a COVID-19 shot and the other half has not.
People in rich countries have received about 50 times as many vaccine doses as those in poorer countries.
WHO reports just over 10 percent of people in Africa have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 64 percent in North America and 62 percent in Europe.
As of December 21, 173,823,259 vaccinations have been administered across the continent.
Studies further show booster shots are effective against the omicron variant, however, the WHO said boosters should be given to the elderly and people who are immunocompromised and not to those at low risk, such as children.