Several officials of the World Health Organization (WHO) denounced on Friday "paternalism" on the part of some richer countries regarding vaccine distribution, highlighting a lack of vaccines rather than a lack of preparation in lower-income countries, while the Director-General of the organization said the global community is "failing."
A question from a journalist on how lower-income countries might administer "hundred of millions" of doses prompted passionate reactions among WHO officials during a press conference.
Bruce Aylward, senior advisor to the WHO Director-General, stressed that many low-income countries "have decades of experience running mass campaigns" on vaccination.
He added that the lack of vaccines was a bigger challenge, stressing that the COVAX Facility, the WHO-led international COVID-19 vaccine initiative, has had "zero doses of AstraZeneca vaccine" and "zero doses of Johnson &Johnson vaccine" this month.
Michael Ryan, WHO executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, echoed and noted that "many countries in the South are much better than countries in the North at delivering mass population based vaccination."
Ryan said that the attitude of countries that refused to share vaccines for fear that low-income countries might waste them reflected "paternalism" and a "colonial mindset".
"That attitude has to be the thing of the past," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"The difference is between the haves and the have nots, and which is now completely exposing the unfairness of our world. The injustice, the inequality," he added.
"The world as international community is failing. As global community we are failing," he stressed.