Turkey’s health minister on Monday urged the world to vaccinate the families of healthcare workers against coronavirus, as the UN health agency said the pandemic has killed at least 115,000 healthcare workers.
“At the first stage in our COVID-19 vaccination program, we vaccinated over 1 million healthcare workers in 45 days,” Fahrettin Koca told the 74th World Health Assembly.
“It is not sufficient that only healthcare workers are vaccinated. I believe that the families of healthcare workers who face the same threat should also be prioritized. And I call upon the whole world on this matter. In Turkey, we have started vaccinating the families of healthcare workers.”
Koca also alluded to the attacks on health institutions in the recent conflict in Gaza and Israel.
Without naming a specific nation, the minister said a country on the WHO executive board “poses a threat to human health by mercilessly targeting hospitals offering healthcare services without being regarding the right to life of even children.”
“If we ignore this inhumane approach, to not raise the necessary awareness, as the health community, to what is going on in Palestine, and do not react, the idea of building a fair and healthy world cannot go beyond mere words, and these meetings will be devoid of any meaning.”
Koca highlighted the ethical and epidemiological problems in access to COVID-19 vaccines, and the danger the world faces without equitable access.
“This issue is the most critical and urgent agenda item of international relations, where we need to come up with solutions on many issues such as intellectual property rights, technology transfer, scale-up production capacities, and distribution,” said the minister.
He said health threats and their global repercussions depend on thinking on a global scale with successful local practices.
“We should not forget that the ultimate success depends on the international alignment of local practices,” said Koca.
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over 3.4 million lives in 192 countries and regions, with more than 167.2 million cases reported worldwide, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Vaccinations began in December 2020 but inequity in their access has been criticized by the WHO and others time and again.
According to Our World in Data, more than 1.67 billion doses of vaccines have been administered globally.
The WHO and others have created COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing program, but it remains underfunded and has faced supply shortages.
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