GENEVA (AN) — The global number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed 300 million with 5.47 million deaths on Friday as nations reeled from a highly transmissible Omicron variant.
It has been five months since the 200 million mark was crossed, an acceleration from the six months it took to go from 100 million to 200 million. Before that it was little more than a year between the first reported outbreak and the first 100 million cases, according to World Health Organization figures.
WHO called on world leaders to support a campaign to vaccinate 70% of people in every country by mid-2022.
"To end the acute stage of the pandemic, the highly effective tools science has given us need to be shared fairly and quickly with all countries of the world. Vaccine inequity and health inequity overall were the biggest failures of last year," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing.
'Vaccine equity is a killer'
When the 200 million mark was reached, Tedros said 4 billion vaccine doses had been administered globally but more than 80% had gone to high- and upper-middle income countries, even though they accounted for less than half of the world’s population.
The situation has changed little since then, and Tedros noted that at the current pace of vaccine rollout some 109 countries would miss out on fully vaccinating 70% of their populations by the start of July 2022. He had wanted every nation to have 10% of their population vaccinated by October and 40% by New Year's Day.
Some 36 nations missed the first target mainly due to their lack of access to vaccines, and 92 of WHO's 194 member-nations missed the year-end target.
"While some countries have had enough personal protective equipment, tests and vaccines to stockpile throughout this pandemic, many countries do not have enough to meet basic baseline needs or modest targets, which no rich country would have been satisfied with," Tedros said. "Vaccine inequity is a killer of people and jobs and it undermines a global economic recovery."