Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

A healthcare worker prepares a coronavirus vaccine dose

A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19 at the Centro Cultural Paz Flor in Luanda on December 16, 2021. (Photo: Osvaldo Silva/AFP via Getty Images)

Vaccine Apartheid Means Pandemic 'Nowhere Near Over': WHO Chief

"With the incredible growth of Omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge," warned WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Jake Johnson

The head of the World Health Organization on Tuesday implored countries not to let their guards down even as Omicron waves appear to have reached their peaks in parts of the globe, a trend that some nations have cited as a reason to lift public safety measures.

During his weekly media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voiced hope that "the worst of this latest wave is done with" but stressed that "no country is out of the woods yet" as infection rates remain at record levels around the world.

"I remain particularly concerned about many countries that have low vaccination rates, as people are many times more at risk of severe illness and death if they're unvaccinated," said Tedros. "Omicron may be less severe, on average of course, but the narrative that it is mild disease is misleading, hurts the overall response, and costs more lives."

"Make no mistake, Omicron is causing hospitalizations and deaths, and even the less severe cases are inundating health facilities," he continued. "This pandemic is nowhere near over, and with the incredible growth of Omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge, which is why tracking and assessment remain critical."

While some recent developments—such as the Texas Children's Hospital's creation of a coronavirus vaccine that it has vowed to share patent-free—have spurred hopes of more equitable pandemic response efforts in the near future, just 9.6% of people in low-income countries have received at least one vaccine dose to date as the global health crisis enters its third year.

Due to the hoarding of doses and vaccine technology by rich countries and pharmaceutical giants, low-income nations have been forced to rely on inadequate spurts of donated doses that, in some cases, have been delivered close to their expiry dates.

Rich countries, meanwhile, are on track to waste hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses that they purchased for booster-shot campaigns. According to a new analysis by the data firm Airfinity, 240 million doses recently bought up by the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, and the European Union are set to expire unused by March.

"Even after successful booster rollouts, there are surplus doses available that risk going to waste if not shared very soon," Rasmus Bech Hansen, Airfinity's CEO, said in a statement. “The emergence of Omicron and the likelihood of future variants shows there is no time to waste.”

Tedros raised similar concerns Tuesday, warning that "unless we change the current model, we'll enter a second and even more destructive phase of vaccine inequity." The WHO chief said COVAX, the United Nations-backed vaccine initiative, delivered its one-billionth dose this past weekend, but a recent analysis estimated that roughly 22 billion more mRNA vaccine doses are needed globally to end the pandemic.

"We need to make sure we share current vaccines equitably and we develop distributed manufacturing around the world," Tedros said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Rights Group Urges Civilian Safeguards as Biden Sends Troops Back to Somalia

"A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state," Human Rights Watch's regional director asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·


Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is a War' for Democratic Party's Future, Says Sanders of AIPAC's Super PAC

"They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country," said the senator.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo