Geneva (UNA-OIC) – Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that urgent action is needed to increase the production of COVID-19 vaccines that will be distributed through the global initiative making these medicines accessible by all countries.
The WHO chief was speaking at the end of a historic week which saw COVAX deliver more than 20 million vaccine doses to 20 countries. A further 31 countries will receive 14.4 million doses next week, according to UN News.
“This is encouraging progress, but the volume of doses being distributed through COVAX is still relatively small,” said Tedros, speaking during his biweekly briefing from Geneva.
“One of our main priorities now is to increase the ambition of COVAX to help all countries end the pandemic. This means urgent action to ramp up production.”
Tedros said the UN health agency and its COVAX partners will meet with government and industry representatives next week to identify “bottlenecks” and relevant solutions.
“We currently face several barriers to increasing the speed and volume of production, from export bans to shortages of raw materials including glass, plastic and stoppers,” he told journalists, pointing out that WHO is working on four approaches to the issue, including calling for waiving patent rights for vaccines.
“Many countries with vaccine manufacturing capacity can start producing their own vaccines by waiving intellectual property rights, as provided for in the TRIPS agreement,” said Tedros, referring to the 1994 accord adopted by all 194 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“Those provisions are there for use in emergencies. If now is not a time to use them, then when? This is unprecedented time, and WHO believes that this is a time to trigger that provision and waive patent rights.”