Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared at a World Health Organization news conference to condemn vaccine nationalism, saying vaccine doses should go to lower-income countries before the young and healthy in developed nations.
Thunberg, 18, who made her name denouncing the lack of government action on climate change, weighed in on a topic repeatedly touched on by the U.N. organization as some countries, including Israel, Britain and the United States, vaccinate younger and healthier people.
WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned in January of the “moral failure” of wealthier countries snapping up available vaccines first and has urged them to share their vaccines with poorer nations once their own most vulnerable are vaccinated.
Thunberg, who donated $120,000 to the WHO’s global vaccine initiative, called it “completely unethical” that wealthier countries were vaccinating young people “if that happens at the expense of people in risk groups and on the front lines in low and middle-income countries.”
“The international community, governments and vaccine developers must step up their game and address the tragedy that is vaccine inequity,” she added.
Experts have long argued that if the virus is left to rage unchecked through much of the world it could mutate into more powerful variants and prolong the pandemic.
Thunberg also linked the pandemic to the need to treat the environment better, citing theories that the pandemics have grown out of human exploitation of natural resources and encroachment on animal habitats.
“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,” she said.
In remarks this week, Tedros noted that 5.2 million new coronavirus infections were reported in the last week, the most since the pandemic began. He added that infections and hospitalizations of younger groups under 60 were growing at an “alarming” rate.