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World on brink of 'catastrophic failure' during Covid pandemic

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A woman gets a dose of Sputnik V vaccine in Moscow Russia

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also hit out at the profiteering of drug companies, accusing vaccine makers of targeting locations where "profits are highest".

Tedros says 39 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered so far in at least 49 higher income countries.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday criticised drug makers' profits and vaccine inequalities, saying it's "not right" that younger, healthier adults in wealthy countries get vaccinated against COVID-19 before older people or healthcare workers in poorer countries. "But we now face the real danger that even as vaccines bring hope to some, they become another brick in the wall of inequality between the worlds of the world's haves and have-nots".

'I need to be blunt.

He pointed out that 44 bilateral deals were signed last year and at least 12 have already been signed this year.

Such a "me-first approach" left the world's poorest and most vulnerable at risk, he said at the opening of the body's annual Executive Board meeting in virtual format.

So far, more than 180 countries have signed up to the Covax initiative, which is supported by the World Health Organization and a group of global vaccine advocacy groups.

Several countries have approved coronavirus vaccines produced in the West and have also started mass coronavirus vaccination drives for their citizens.

That appeared to be an allusion to a shortage of data that the United Nations health agency says it has received from vaccine makers so that WHO can approve them for wider emergency use.

Speaking at press conference on Monday, Britain's health secretary Matt Hancock said he "absolutely agrees" with Dr Tedros's comments.

'It's right that all governments want to prioritize vaccinating their own health workers and older people first.

"We aim to start deliveries in February", he said.

He called on wealthier countries to hold off on vaccinating their young and healthier adults so that older people and front-line health-care workers in developing countries could receive their doses.

"Even as they speak the language of equitable access, some countries and companies continue to prioritize bilateral deals, going around Covax, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue", he said.

"Ultimately these actions will only prolong the pandemic", he added, urging countries to avoid making the same mistakes made during the H1N1 and HIV pandemics.

Canada, in particular, came in for criticism, with the coalition saying the North American nation had ordered enough vaccine doses to protect each Canadian five times.

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