IRELAND should refrain from vaccinating young people against Covid-19 before the developing world has vaccinated everyone vulnerable, according to a leading Irish health expert.
Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of emergencies at the World Health Organization (WHO), argued that history wouldn't look kindly on us if we decided to give vaccines to healthy people who are at low risk before they were given to health workers, the elderly and the vulnerable in other countries.
Speaking after receiving the Trócaire annual Romero prize, Dr Ryan stressed that Ireland and other wealthy nations should share their vaccines with countries that have a very limited supply, adding that "almost all of the vaccines that have been delivered in the world" were currently in just 10 countries.
"If we stand by and allow frontline health workers and vulnerable people in developing countries to not be vaccinated while the rich north gets on with vaccinating perfectly healthy young people, then I hope then history books write that down," he said.
He argued that Ireland wouldn't need to abandon their vaccination programme to help out other nations, and could simply balance their "duty and sense of solidarity to people everywhere," adding that the world now has "a choice", to decide whether vaccinations should be distributed based on need, or on the ability to pay.
Once Ireland's vulnerable were all vaccinated, Dr Ryan said, the sharing of vaccines with those who don't have access to them should be prioritised, and that the public should put pressure on the Government to do so.
"The Irish people need to give permission to the Government, permission to the EU, permission to rich countries, political permission to say, 'yes, it's ok, we're not going to punish you at the next election because you shared a few vaccines with those who most need them'," he added.