The world faces a “moral test” over the current unequal distribution of coronavirus vaccines, climate activist Greta Thunberg has warned, as she donated 100,000 euros to the global rollout of doses among at-risk populations.
Ms Thunberg, who was speaking at a World Health Organisation news briefing, condemned vaccine nationalism and said it was unethical that rich countries were prioritising their younger citizens for vaccination ahead of vulnerable groups in lower-income nations.
Whereas one in four people in high-income countries have now been vaccinated against Covid-19, only one in more than 500 people in poorer countries have received a jab.
"The international community, governments and vaccine developers must step up their game and address the tragedy that is vaccine inequity,” said Ms Thunberg.
“We have the tools we need to correct this great imbalance that exists around the world today in the fight against Covid-19.
“Just as with the climate crisis, those who are most vulnerable need to be prioritised and global problems require global solutions.”
The 18-year-old is donating 100,000 euros (£86,000) via the Greta Thunberg Foundation to the WHO’s Covax scheme, which intends to deliver 2 billion doses to the world’s 92 poorest countries by the end of 2021.
Research commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has found that the equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines globally could prevent 61 per cent of future deaths, compared to 33 per cent if doses are monopolised by 47 of the world’s richest nations.
Yet these countries have bought 2 billion more doses than their citizens need, according to estimates. Britain itself has amassed one of the largest vaccine stockpiles in the world, numbering more than 400 million shots – enough to inoculate its entire population three times over.
"It is completely unethical that high-income countries are now vaccinating young and healthy people if that happens at the expense of people in risk groups and on the front lines in lower and middle-income countries,” continued Ms Thunberg.
"And this is a moral test. We talk today about showing solidarity and yet vaccine nationalism is what's running the vaccine distribution.
"It is only when it really comes down to it that we show our true face."
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, thanked the climate activist for the donation and her support of vaccine equity.
“I urge the global community to follow Greta’s example and do what they can, in support of Covax, to protect the world’s most vulnerable people from this pandemic,” he said.
Ms Thunberg also argued that the current global "health crisis" cannot be separated from the "ecological crisis”.
"Science shows that in the future we will most likely experience more frequent and more devastating pandemics unless we drastically change our ways and the way we treat nature,” she said.
"Today up to 75 per cent of all emerging diseases come from animals and as we are cutting down forests and destroying habitats we are creating the ideal conditions for diseases to spill over from one animal to another and then to us.
"We can no longer separate the health crisis from the ecological crisis and we cannot separate the ecological crisis from the climate crisis. It's all interlinked in many ways."