London: The Covid-19 pandemic will drag on until 2022, longer than it needs to, because several poor countries have not received vaccines against the deadly infectious disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
In Africa, less than 5 per cent have been vaccinated, compared to 40 per cent on most other continents.
According to Bruce Aylward, a senior leader at the WHO, this means the Covid crisis could "easily drag on deep into 2022", the BBC reported.
Aylward appealed to wealthy countries to give up their places in the queue for vaccines in order that pharmaceutical companies can prioritise the lowest-income countries instead.
He said that wealthy countries needed to "stocktake" where they were with their donation commitments made at summits such as the G7 meeting in St. Ives earlier this year.
"I can tell you we're not on track. We really need to speed it up or you know what? This pandemic is going to go on for a year longer than it needs to," he said.
Just one in seven of the doses promised by pharmaceutical companies and wealthy countries are actually reaching their destinations in poorer countries, suggest new figures from The People's Vaccine -- an alliance of charities, the report said.
The vast majority of Covid vaccines have been given in high-income or upper-middle-income countries. Africa accounts for just 2.6 per cent of doses administered globally.
The group of charities, which includes Oxfam and UNAIDS, also criticised Canada and the UK for procuring vaccines for their own populations via COVAX, the UN-backed global programme to distribute vaccines fairly, the report said.
COVAX was initiated so that all countries would be able to acquire vaccines from its pool, including wealthy ones, but most G7 countries decided to hold back once they started making their own one-to-one deals with pharmaceutical companies.
Canada and the UK were technically entitled to get vaccines via this route having paid into the Covax mechanism, but it was still "morally indefensible" given that they had both obtained millions of doses through their own bilateral agreements, Oxfam's Global Health Adviser, Rohit Malpani, was quoted as saying.
"They should not have been acquiring these doses from Covax," he said. "It's nothing better than double-dipping and means that poorer countries which are already at the back of the queue, will end up waiting longer."
Covax originally aimed to deliver two billion doses of vaccines by the end of this year, but so far it has shipped 371m doses.