WHO: bilateral COVID-19 vaccine deals not good for COVAX

FILE PHOTO: WHO European director Hans Kluge gives status on the Danish handling of coronavirus during a press breefing in Eigtveds Pakhus, Copenhagen, Denmark March 27, 2020. Ida Guldbaek Arentsen/ Ritzau Scanpix/via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Countries should not agree bilateral deals that undermine the international COVAX COVID-19 vaccine procurement facility, but they also have a responsibility to vaccinate frontline workers swiftly, WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge said on Thursday.

Recent days have seen some European countries looking at securing jabs from Russia or China that do not yet have the European Union’s authorisation and sidelining an EU joint procurement approach.

The World Health Organization-backed COVAX scheme, destined for emerging countries, is “the only global mechanism to equalise access to vaccines”, Kluge told reporters.

“What we would like to avoid obviously are any bilateral deals hurting or causing a setback to COVAX which is now is starting to deliver all over the world,” he said.

But international solidarity does not contradict national responsibility, Kluge added, saying vaccinating frontline workers was essential.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Matthias Blamont; Editing by Alex Richardson