GENEVA - U.N. health chief chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned rich countries against hoarding vaccines on Friday, saying that in light of virus mutations, it "hurts us all."
None of the safe and effective vaccines that have been developed so far have been rolled out in any low-income country, he said.
Of the 42 countries that have rolled out such vaccinations against the coronavirus disease, 36 are high-income and six are middle-income countries, according to Tedros.
"Vaccine nationalism hurts us all and is self-defeating," the World Health Organization (WHO) director general told an online news conference from Geneva.
The current virus mutations show that the virus is making itself more suitable to circulating among humans, Tedros said.
"This is normal of every virus, but at present we're helping it thrive if we don't reduce transmission and vaccinate equitably," he warned.
Tedros criticized wealthy countries for striking deals to secure additional doses for themselves, at the expense of the international Covax initiative that aims to distribute vaccines fairly across poor and rich countries.
Pharmaceutical companies should prioritize supply through Covax, while governments that have secured more vaccines than they will need should donate them to the initiative led by the WHO and international health funds, Tedros said.
One year after the international community started learning about a new disease spreading in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the WHO is in the process of sending an international expert mission to China to study the origins of the virus.
However, Chinese authorities delayed their entry this week. "We expect to fix travel dates next week," Tedros said.