In a joint press briefing, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier have called for fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to Steinmeier, the global community must ensure equitable access to COVID-19 tools both out of moral reasons and out of self-interest. Only if everyone everywhere is safe, can we prevent the virus and mutations from returning, he stated. Given the current scarcity of vaccine doses, providing the funding only, however, would not solve the problem, Steinmeier outlined. Therefore, Germany is currently exploring the possibility of sharing doses with other countries, although the scope and timeline are not clear yet.
Ghebreyesus echoed Steinmeier in stating that providing the funding would be useless if rich countries would at the same time undermine the COVAX initiative by only securing doses for themselves. The numbers of doses available in 2021 must thus be fairly distributed, Ghebreyesus said.
To the question of waiving patents to scale up vaccine production, both Steinmeier's and Ghebreyesus’ reactions were restrained. While Steinmeier called to not simplify the debate, Ghebreyesus stated that every possibility must be considered – even waivers on intellectual property – to allow for the world’s recovery from this unprecedented health crisis.
Ghebreyesus further announced the plan of establishing a WHO center for public health intelligence and risk analysis in Berlin, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ghebreyesus agreed on last year.