The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticised what it describes as a “shocking imbalance” in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines between rich and poor countries.
The WHO has long called for fairer distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.
It is leading the Covax scheme which is designed to get jabs to poorer nations.
“There remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.
“On average in high-income countries, almost one in four people have received a Covid-19 vaccine. In low-income countries, it’s one in more than 500,” he said.
The Covax scheme had been expected to distribute at least 100 million doses worldwide by the end of March, but only 38 million jabs have been delivered so far.
Covax hopes to deliver more than two billion doses to people in 190 countries in less than a year.
“We hope to be able to catch up during April and May,” Dr Tedros said.
He also criticised countries that have sought their own vaccine deals outside of the Covax scheme. “Some countries and companies plan to do their own bilateral vaccine donations, bypassing Covax for their own political or commercial reasons,” Dr Tedros said.
“These bilateral arrangements run the risk of fanning the flames of vaccine inequity,” he added. “Scarcity of supply is driving vaccine nationalism.”
Earlier this year, Dr Tedros warned that the world was facing a “catastrophic moral failure” over vaccine inequality. He said a “me-first” approach would be self-defeating because it would encourage hoarding and prolong the pandemic.
High-income countries currently hold a confirmed 4.6 billion doses, while low-middle income nations hold 670 million, according to research by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.