As the WHO Executive Board meets for its 150th session, HelpAge has shared a statement calling on the WHO and Member States to do more to address the continuing inequity of global vaccine distribution which is exposing millions of those most in need to unnecessary risk.
“Almost three-quarters of those who have died from COVID-19 are aged over 60 and yet millions remain unable to access the vaccines which would protect them from the virus. This is a shocking statistic and a salient reminder that not enough has been done by the international community to protect those most at risk,” said Camilla Williamson, HelpAge International’s healthy aging adviser.
Despite an estimated 52.2 million older people living in sub-Saharan Africa, available WHO data shows less than 5 percent of older people were fully vaccinated in many countries by end of December 2021. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, less than 1 percent of their 4.3 million are fully vaccinated.
The full statement submitted by HelpAge to the WHO reads as follows:
“Older people make up an estimated 73 percent of mortality from COVID-19 globally. They should be at the center of pandemic preparedness and response.
But vaccine inequity means less than 5 percent of older people are vaccinated in many countries in Africa. In two of those countries, you are more likely to be vaccinated if you are under 60 than if you are older. This is ageism.
Vaccine inequity between countries must end now. We must also deliver equity within countries by reaching those most at risk first.
Older people’s rights must be upheld by addressing the barriers they face in accessing vaccines, including ageism, and by engaging and empowering all groups of older people in risk communication and community engagement activity. WHO has a wealth of technical capacity on aging they must promote among actors at all levels to strengthen response.
HelpAge is working with older people and partners in Africa and other regions to reach those most at risk. We call for concerted and urgent action from WHO, Member States, and others to achieve vaccine equity and access for older people everywhere now.”
This article was originally published by HelpAge International.