The World Health Organization’s chief for Europe says it’s launching with the European Union a 40-million euro ($48.5 million) program to help deploy COVID-19 vaccines in six countries that were once Soviet republics.
Dr. Hans Kluge, who also highlighted a drop in coronavirus cases in recent weeks while warning case counts remain too high, says the program complements work through an existing EU program and the WHO-backed COVAX Facility that aims to deploy vaccines for people in all countries in need whether rich or poor.
The program will involve Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova.
“Vaccines offer a way to emerge faster from this pandemic. But only if we ensure that all countries, irrespective of income level, have access to them,” Kluge told reporters from Copenhagen, Denmark.
“Unfair access to vaccines can backfire. The longer the virus lingers, the greater the risk of dangerous mutations,” he added.
Kluge hailed “good news” that new infections in the 53-country WHO Europe region has declined for four straight weeks and said COVID-related deaths have fallen in each of the last two weeks. He also pointed to declining hospitalization rates.
In the region, some 7.8 million people have completed their immunization, Kluge said.