The Stream

Omicron: Will rich countries now stop hoarding vaccines?

On Thursday, December 2 at 19:30 GMT:
Since the first COVID-19 shots were made available, scientists have been warning the leaders of rich nations that if poorer countries don’t have equal access to vaccines, the virus could mutate and prolong the pandemic.

Now the Omicron variant is causing concern for health officials and scientists who are working to determine how infectious it is and whether current vaccines will protect against it.

The Omicron variant was first reported in southern Africa last week, though its exact origin is unknown. Cases of the variant have since been confirmed in Europe and North America, but the initial announcement from South Africa’s health ministry prompted many nations to issue travel bans from southern African countries. African leaders called the bans unjustified.

On Tuesday, the director general of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus discouraged the use of “blanket measures that are not evidence-based or effective on their own, and which will only worsen inequities.”

In this episode of The Stream, we’ll look at the state of COVID vaccine inequality and the responses to the Omicron coronavirus variant.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, @doctorsoumya
Chief scientist, World Health Organization

Achal Prabhala
Public health activist

Dr Regina Osih
Infectious disease specialist, Aurum Institute