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WHO chief condemns countries like UK over ‘self-defeating’ vaccine rollout

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization. (Reuters)

The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched an extraordinary attack on vaccine rollouts in wealthier countries, branding the race to protect their entire population at the expense of those in poorer countries “grotesque”. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was “shocking” how little rich countries have done to avert a “catastrophic moral failure” that he previously warned of in January.

It comes as richer countries have been buying up huge vaccination supplies through bilateral deals with manufacturers and are racing to vaccinate their entire populations. The UK has so far administered the first jab to nearly 28 million adults out of a population of around 66 million. Meanwhile, countries like Timor, Sierra Leone and Yemen have not been able to vaccinate anyone — not even healthcare workers or vulnerable people, according to Our World in Data. Tedros said: “We have the means to avert this failure but it’s shocking how little has been done to avert it.” “The gap between the number of vaccines administered in rich countries and the number of vaccines administered through COVAX is growing every single day and becoming more grotesque every day. “Countries that are now vaccinating younger, healthy people at low risk of disease are doing so at the cost of the lives of health workers, older people and other at-risk groups in other countries.