The failure to vaccinate the world against the coronavirus has created the perfect breeding ground for the emergence of the Omicron variant and should serve as a wake-up call to wealthy countries, activists said.
Scientists and global health experts have called for action since the summer to tackle the crisis of vaccine inequalities between rich and poor countries. The more large parts of the world went unvaccinated, they said, the more likely the virus was to mutate significantly.
The emergence of such a variant threatens to derail efforts to end the pandemic. The World Health Organization says the highly mutated Omicron variant is likely to spread internationally and poses a very high risk of outbreaks of infection which can have serious consequences in some places.
“Omicron is with us because we failed to vaccinate the world,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAids and co-chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a campaign group. “This should be a wake-up call.
“The status quo has led to huge profits for pharmaceutical companies, but many unvaccinated people mean this virus continues to mutate. It’s the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We need to press reset.
The warning comes as new figures released by the People’s Vaccine Alliance show the number of boosters or third injections being given in the UK is about the same as the total number of people fully vaccinated in all of the world’s largest countries. poor of the world.
The UK has hit the 20 million booster or third dose milestone given days after ministers announced a significant expansion of the program to every adult in the country. At the same time, according to figures from Our World In Data cited by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, only 20 million people in the 27 countries classified as low-income nations by the World Bank had been fully immunized.
“With the new threat from the Omicron variant, it’s clear that we can’t just get out of the pandemic while leaving much of the developing world behind,” said Anna Marriott, health policy manager at Oxfam. , who is one of some 80 people. People’s Vaccine Alliance organizations. “Unless all countries are vaccinated as early as possible, we could see waves of variants.
“We cannot correct the mistakes of the past 21 months, but we need rich countries to chart a new course in which they step up and insist that pharmaceutical companies start sharing their science and technology with qualified manufacturers around the world. whole, so that we can vaccinate people. in all countries and finally end the pandemic.
Tony Blair said that “the failure to organize mass vaccination globally has been a huge problem throughout this crisis”.
The former UK Prime Minister told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend: ‘Well, it’s always been very obvious that if you don’t vaccinate the world, this is a virus that can mutate. If you have large unvaccinated populations it is likely to mutate faster and further. “