Norway's Health Boss Stoltenberg Accuses Rich Countries of Contributing to Prolonging COVID Pandemic
Amid the rise of the novel Omicron strain and rising daily infection levels, many wealthy countries have maxed out their vaccination doses. In many cases, intervals between the second and third dose have been shortened, and the boosters are being recommended and administered to healthy and younger population groups.
Rich countries such as Norway are getting too large a share of the vaccines, hereby prolonging the COVID-19 pandemic, Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) director Camilla Stoltenberg has argued.
While wealthy nations have secured good vaccine coverage and are in the process of administering third and even fourth doses, only a fraction of the residents of numerous and populous developing countries have been offered vaccines.
"It is quite clear that rich countries such as Norway use a disproportionately high proportion of vaccines and can thus contribute to prolonging the pandemic", FHI director Camilla Stoltenberg toldTV2.
At the same time, the sister of former Norwegian Prime Minister and current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pointed out that Norway and fellow developed countries do obtain vaccine doses for the rest of the world, not least through the global COVAX initiative, which seeks to provide fairer vaccine distribution.
"Therefore, the answer is a bit complicated. But it is quite clear that the WHO chief is right. It is important to prioritise vaccination in other parts of the world", Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg claimed that FHI is constantly working to ensure that not only Norway, but the whole world has enough vaccines.
"We must prepare for a fairer distribution of vaccines, tests, and equipment in the future. We are completely dependent on the whole world achieving this", she said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) earlier claimed that rich countries' race to provide booster doses to their citizenry had bolstered inequality in the world and prolonged the pandemic.
"No country can boost its way out of the pandemic", WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. "Blanket booster programmes are likely to prolong the pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate".
Of the vaccines administered so far, 73 percent have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Only 0.9 percent of the doses have been sent to low-income countries, The New York Times reported in an overview. In Africa, only 12 percent of the continent's population has received at least one dose. For the sake of comparison, the proportion is 65 percent in Europe and 74 percent in the US and Canada.
22 December 2021, 05:43 GMT
Despite some of the world's highest vaccination levels and booster shots currently administered to swaths of the population, many European countries are seeing record infection levels, the highest since the start of the pandemic. Among others, Denmark has reached the world's highest incidence rate with 1,612 cases of infection per 100,000 inhabitants and recorded a peak of 16,164 cases on Monday.
Amid the rise of the novel Omicron strain and soaring infection levels, many countries shifted full throttle into their vaccine programmes. The intervals between the second and third dose have been shortened, and booster doses are recommended for healthy and increasingly younger age brackets.