Politicization of science has impeded the response to the pandemic and cost lives, said Dr Tedros
GENEVA, Feb 25 (The COINNECT) - Pointing out that politics is undermining science, World Health Organisation Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said science must guide policy, not the other way round.
Delivering the Robert McNamara Lecture at Harvard Kennedy School on War and Peace, Dr Tedros said science has given us valuable insights into how this virus spreads, how it causes disease, and how to stop it.
Dr Tedros regretted that in some countries and communities, and on social media, the marginalization and politicization of science has impeded the response to the pandemic and cost lives.
“My point is not that science should be the only consideration in decision-making about public health. My point is that science should be the central and guiding consideration,” he stressed.
He pointed out that that science can in fact widen inequalities, unless it is paired with a commitment to equity. As high as 83% of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose of vaccine.
Vaccine nationalism, export bans and bilateral deals between manufacturers and high-income nations severely restricted the number of doses COVAX was able to ship in the first half of last year, he said.
The supply situation, however, has now improved, and COVAX has been able to ship more than 1.2 billion doses of vaccine to 144 countries and territories, he said.
WHO and our partners are working night and day to support countries to turn vaccines into vaccinations, to reach our target of vaccinating 70% of the population of every country by the middle of this year. To reach that target, Dr Tedros said the WHO is calling on all countries to urgently fill the ACT Accelerator’s financing gap of US$16 billion, to ensure equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments and PPE everywhere.
On his topic for the talk, he said “I must admit that the task of delivering a lecture with war and peace in its title weighs heavily on me, at a time when we are now seeing conflict in Europe of a kind we all hoped had been consigned to history.”
The authors of WHO’s Constitution were well aware of the link between health and peace, which is why they wrote in the preamble that the health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security, and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and States, he said.
WHO is also watching the turn of events in Ukraine with “deep concern” for what this will mean for the region, the world, and especially for the health of the affected populations. Sadly, he said, Ukraine is not the only conflict in our world. From Afghanistan to Myanmar, Yemen, and my own country of Ethiopia, it’s an unfortunate reality that all too often, conflict and disease go together.
COVID-19 is a powerful demonstration that a pandemic is so much more than a health crisis. Even some countries with the most sophisticated medical care were overwhelmed by COVID-19, he said.
By contrast, some middle-income countries with fewer resources fared much better, thanks to investments in public health after outbreaks of SARS, MERS, H1N1 and others, especially in the Mekong region, Dr Tedros pointed out.