The WHO accused the EU of “vaccine nationalism” for its intended plan to restrict vaccine exports until EU order had been fully delivered
Rabat – The EU has reversed its plan to block the export of COVID-19 vaccines until EU orders had been delivered in-full.
The WHO came out strongly against the EU’s plan, highlighting it as an example of “vaccine nationalism” that could threaten the global roll-out of vaccines. The WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu used his speaking time at the Davos economic forum to warn against what he considered a “catastrophic moral failure.”
As global COVID-19 cases surpassed the 100 million-mark on Wednesday, Dr Tedros issued a stark warning to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The WHO chief stated that “It is understandable that governments want to prioritize vaccinating their own health workers and older people first,” but warned this was “not right” as it meant others would miss out.
“It is not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries, I hope you will understand this,” he told the European politicians in attendance.
The planned export ban, which the EU argued would not endanger global vaccine programs such as the COVAX mechanism, also reignited Brexit tensions. As the UK is now a non-EU country, the export ban would mean that vaccines would not be allowed to cross the Irish-British border on the Irish island.
British politician Julian Smith described the EU’s controversial vaccine plan as an “almost Trumpian act.”
The conservative politician has now welcomed the reversal, saying the EU had “cocked up big time” for planning to stop vaccines from crossing the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. For Smith, upholding the plan would have been a breach of efforts to continue the flow of goods post-Brexit .
While the WHO applied much more diplomatic language in its criticism, it has still described vaccine hoarding by rich countries as “self-defeating” and warned that such behavior would prolong the pandemic.
The EU plan was part of a “worrying trend,” according to Mariangela Simao, the WHO Assistant Director General for Access to Medicines, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals.
The EU’s planned export ban was part of efforts to combat shortages of vaccines in EU member countries.
While local politicians had promised citizens they would see a rapid vaccination campaign, vaccine manufacturers recently announced they would not be able to deliver in time. Both Pfizer and Astrazeneca announced that they would be unable to meet their commitments to the EU.