The World Health Organization (WHO) urged rich countries on Friday to consider donating COVID-19 vaccine shots to the COVAX distribution scheme before vaccinating children.
"I understand why some countries want to vaccinate their children and adolescents, but right now I urge them to reconsider and to instead donate vaccines to COVAX," said WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a virtual meeting in Vienna, Austria.
Ghebreyesus said the second year of the pandemic will likely be more deadly than the first, with India becoming a major concern.
"In low and lower-middle income countries, COVID-19 vaccine supply has not been enough to even immunize healthcare workers, and hospitals are being inundated with people that need lifesaving care urgently," he added.
Which nations have begun vaccinating children?
Canada approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children at least 12 years old last week, and the US began giving vaccines to the same age group earlier this week.
The other vaccines, including Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, have only been approved for adults who are at least 18.
What is the state of the global vaccination drive?
Nearly 1.4 billion vaccine doses have been given out in at least 210 countries, according to a tally by news agency AFP.
But 44% of those doses went to high-income countries that account for 16% of the global population. Just 0.3% have been given in the 29 lowest-income countries, which is home to 9% of the world population.
"Saving lives and livelihoods with a combination of public health measures and vaccination — not one or the other — is the only way out," said Ghebreyesus.
Senior WHO adviser Bruce Aylward said the health agency was in touch with the United States about sharing vaccines with COVAX.
"They recognize that sharing those doses may help ensure greater impact overall," said Aylward during the virtual meeting. "They want to be ready when the doses are ready…we're working in parallel."
kbd/rt (AFP, Reuters)