While the World Health Organization (WHO) didn’t explicitly mention Israel, the Jewish state was without doubt among those nations whose current COVID-19 vaccination policies it finds “disgraceful.”
Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s frontman on the coronavirus pandemic, told a live social media event on Tuesday that a relatively small number of wealthier countries are hoarding vaccine doses, leaving poorer nations unable to adequately inoculate their populations.
“There’s probably 20 people in the world that are crucial to solving this equity problem,” explained Aylward. “They head the big companies that are in charge of this, they head the countries that are contracting most of the world’s vaccines, and they head the countries that produce them.”
The result of the dealings between these 20 people is that high-income nations have administered on average 104 vaccine doses per 100 citizens, while the world’s 29 poorest countries have only administered 2 doses per 100 citizens.
“We should be collectively disgusted with ourselves,” insisted Aylward.
Vaccine stockpile a source of pride
The WHO official didn’t call out any countries by name, but Israel is at the top of the list of those that have managed to procure more than enough vaccine doses over the past year.
In fact, it has been something of a source of national pride that Israel at one point had so many vaccine doses that it gifted and traded some to other countries.
Unnecessary booster shot?
Israel’s healthy vaccine stockpile has also enabled it give a third “booster” shot to over half-a-million citizens over the age of 60. The government is now considering offering a third dose to every citizen over the age of 45.
But the WHO sees the distribution of booster shots as both unnecessary and a clear indication of the gross global vaccine inequity.
“There’s no scientific evidence yet that we need to have a third dose,” stressed Mariangela Simao, the WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines, vaccines and pharmaceuticals.
Last week the WHO called for an immediate halt to COVID-19 booster shots. At present the only countries administering a third vaccine dose are Israel, Russia and Hungary. Germany and France are scheduled to begin doing so on September 1.
That plea fell on deaf ears in the Jewish state, where the government is frantically trying to curb a fourth coronavirus infection wave ahead of the new school year and the upcoming Jewish holidays.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is aggressively pushing the notion that inoculating as close as possible to 100% of the population (including children over the age of 12) and giving a booster to all senior citizens is the only way to prevent another lockdown.
No doubt every nation is more focused on ensuring their own economic recovery than on whether or not other countries have equal access to the vaccine.