The head of the World Health Organization warned Monday that the world is on the brink of a “catastrophic moral failure” if wealthier nations don’t ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanonom Ghebreysus, who has repeatedly warned richer countries against excluding poorer ones by cutting bilateral deals with vaccine suppliers, took his rhetoric up a notch in his opening remarks at an executive board session.

“I need to be blunt: The world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure — and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries,” he said, noting that while 39 million doses have been administered in higher-income countries, one poor country has so far just given out 25 doses.

WHO-linked plan to start global vaccine rollout in first half of 2021

WHO has partnered with several vaccine makers to provide 2 billion doses to a consortium of lowe- income countries in an initiative dubbed Covax, but Tedros said there are concerns the vaccines won’t be delivered.

“Even as they speak the language of equitable access, some countries and companies continue to prioritize bilateral deals, going around Covax, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue,” he said.

He called on wealthier countries to hold off on vaccinating their young and healthier adults so that older people and front-line health workers in developing countries could receive their doses of the vaccine.

World Health Organization unveils plan for distributing coronavirus vaccine, urges cooperation

U.S. says it won’t join WHO-linked effort to develop, distribute coronavirus vaccine

Coronavirus vaccinations have started. But people in Africa face a much longer wait.

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