WHO Slams 'Heartbreaking' Inequity As Over 50 Countries Fail To Vaccinate Just 10% Of Population

More than 50 countries, many of them in Africa, failed to meet the World Health Organization's target of vaccinating 10% of their population by September. This was a sad shortfall that one WHO official blamed on inequity between poor and rich nations.

A nurse in a face mask fills the syringe with Sputnik V vaccine at a Moscow clinic on December 5, 2020. AFP via Getty Images

The Key Facts

According to figures from the Oxford University's Our World In Data project, vaccination rates in 56 countries are still below 10%, the WHO stated Tuesday. This includes places like Nigeria and Uganda. Maria Van Kerkhove (WHO's Covid-19 technical leader) called the missed deadline heartbreaking in a Tuesday question and answer session. Van Kerkhove claimed vaccine inequity is fueling the pandemic. She argued that Covid-19's global death toll and infection rate, both of which have fallen in recent weeks, are unnecessarily large because vaccine supplies have not been distributed equally. Some jurisdictions were also blamed by the WHO epidemiologist for easing their mask-wearing and physical distancing rules too early.

Important Quote

Van Kerkhove stated Tuesday that, frankly, we don't have the right tools to bring us closer to ending the pandemic.


Van Kerkhove pointed out that unvaccinated persons account for a large proportion of new Covid-19 death in countries with reliable data. This reinforces evidence that vaccines can prevent deaths. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had earlier Tuesday credited vaccines with preventing 39,000 deaths in the United States among seniors between January and May.

Big Number

3.06 billion. This is the global population that has been at least partially vaccinated against Covid-19. It amounts to more than 45% of the Earth's population, according To Our World In Data.


There are many variations in vaccine coverage. Europe's vaccination efforts began slowly. However, 67.4% of European Union residents now have at least one Covid-19 shot. This is more than three times the United States' vaccination rate of 87%. Over seven out of 10 European Union residents have been vaccinated in countries such as the United Kingdom (71.8%) Japan (72.1%), Malaysia (73.1%) China (77.5%) South Korea (77.5%) and Singapore (779.7%). India's 47.5% vaccination rate is slightly higher than the global average. In Africa, 6.9% of the population is vaccinated. Rates are lower than 5% in sub-Saharan Africa.

Important Background

International health officials and the WHO spent months pushing wealthy countries to share vaccines. The gambit has had mixed results. The WHO recommended a moratorium in booster shots from May 2022. This meant that extra vaccine doses should be given to those who have not received their first shot. However, countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Israel continue to push forward with plans to give some fully vaccinated people an additional shot. In May, Pfizers vaccine was approved by the U.S. for children 12 years and over. Less than a week later the WHO warned wealthy countries not to rush to immunize their children against the coronavirus. COVAX is a WHO-backed campaign that subsidizes Covid-19 vaccines in low and middle-income countries. However, COVAX reduced the number of vaccines it expects to distribute this year by 25% due to India's long-standing ban on vaccine exports and supply constraints.

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Asia is a former Vaccination Laggard. (New York Times).

WHO Calls For Pause On Covid Booster Shots Until 2022 (Forbes)