The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday, October 21, said that around 80,000 to 1,80,000 health care workers may have lost their lives due to COVID-19 up to May 2021.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted that healthcare staff has been severely affected due to the ongoing pandemic and must be prioritised for vaccines. He, however, criticised unfairness in the distribution of inoculations.
According to a WHO paper, out of the total 135 million health staff globally, the number of deaths ranged from 80k-180k between January 2020 and May 2021, Mint reported.
"Data from 119 countries reveal that on an average, two in five health and care workers worldwide are fully jabbed. But of course, that average masks huge differences across regions and economic groupings," the WHO chief said.
"In Africa, less than in one in 10 healthcare staff has been fully inoculated. Meanwhile, in most high-income nations, more than 80 per cent of health workers are fully vaccinated," he added.
A failure to provide developing nations with sufficient vaccines was brought to notice earlier by the senior leader at the WHO, Dr Bruce Aylward, who said it meant the COVID-19 pandemic could "easily drag on deep into 2022", BBC reported.
Less than 5 per cent of Africa's population have been vaccinated, compared with 40 per cent on most other continents.
Most Vaccines Used In Developed Countries
The majority of COVID-19 vaccines have been used in high-income or upper-middle-income nations. Africa accounts for merely 2.6 per cent of doses administered worldwide.
"We call on all the nations to ensure that all health and care workers in every country get prioritised for Covid-19 vaccines, alongside other at vulnerable groups," Tedros said.
He stated that more than ten months have passed since WHO approved the first vaccines. But still, millions of healthcare workers still not been inoculated was an "indictment" on the nations and companies controlling the worldwide supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Annette Kennedy, president of the International Council of Nurses, said the organisation mourned for all healthcare professionals who had lost their lives -- "many needlessly; many we could have saved".
"It's a shocking indictment of the respective governments. It's a shocking indictment of their lack of duty of care to protect health care workers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives," she said.
"They are now exhausted, they are shattered, they are physically and mentally burnt out. And there is a prediction that 10 per cent of them will leave within a concise span," she added.
Insufficient Supply Of Vaccines
The WHO wants each country to have vaccinated 40 per cent of its people by the end of this year, but Tedros said 82 nations were now at risk of missing that target, mainly through the insufficient supply of vaccines.
The original idea behind Covax, the UN-backed global programme to distribute vaccines fairly, was that all countries would be able to acquire vaccines from its pool, including wealthy persons.
But once G7 countries started making their own deals with pharmaceutical companies, they decided to hold it back.
Renowned doctors had urged the wealthy nations to back off from the vaccine queue so that pharmaceutical companies could provide vaccines to the lowest-income countries instead on a priority basis.
They said wealthy countries needed to "stocktake" where they were with their donation commitments made at summits like the G7 meeting in St Ives this year.
The People's Vaccine - an alliance of charities - has released new figures suggesting one in seven of the vaccine doses promised by pharmaceutical companies and wealthy nations are reaching their destinations in low-income countries.
The alliance, including Oxfam and UNAids, also criticised Canada and the UK for acquiring vaccines for their own people through Covax.
As per official figures, the UK got 5,39,370 Pfizer doses from Covax, while Canada received nearly one million AstraZeneca doses.
The UK government said that it was one of the countries which had "kick-started" Covax in 2020 with a donation of £548m. The country has also supplied over 10 million vaccines to nations in need and has pledged a total of 100 million doses.
The Canadian government was keen to stress that it had now stopped using Covax vaccines.
Covax initially aimed to deliver two billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021, but it has delivered 371 million doses so far.
The COVID-19 virus has killed at least 4.9 million people since its outbreak in China in December 2019. About 242 million people have so far tested positive for the virus.