The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that rich companies buying up COVID vaccine supplies is a "clear problem" for the global fight against coronavirus.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said that of the 42 countries rolling out a vaccine so far, 36 are high-income countries and six are middle-income countries.
He said: "So there’s a clear problem that low- and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet."
Ghebreyesus said that by buying up the vaccines and limiting supply, the wealthiest countries were “bumping up” the cost for poorer nations.
“This potentially bumps up the price for everyone and means high-risk people in the poorest and most marginalized countries don’t get the vaccine,” he said.
“And some companies and countries have not submitted critical data, which we need to issue Emergency Use Listings, which blocks the whole system of procurement and delivery.
“Vaccine nationalism hurts us all and is self-defeating.”
WHO has launched the COVAX initiative, aimed at ensuring that all countries have “fair and equitable access” to COVID-19 vaccines. COVAX is a voluntary arrangement that enables countries to pool their resources and risk by collectively investing in vaccine candidates while developing the political and logistical infrastructure needed for vaccine distribution.
The main priority of the initiative is to ensure that vaccines financed through the it will be allocated in a transparent and coordinated manner across the globe.
Ghebreyesus said: Going forward, I want to see manufacturers prioritise supply and rollout through COVAX.
“I urge countries that have contracted more vaccines than they will need, and are controlling the global supply, to also donate and release them to COVAX immediately, which is ready today to rollout quickly.
“And I urge countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of COVAX.
“No country is exceptional and should cut the queue and vaccinate all their population while some remain with no supply of the vaccine.
“Science has delivered, let’s not waste the opportunity to protect lives of those most at risk and ensure all economies have a fair shot at recovery.”
Under the COVAX plan, vaccine doses would initially be allocated to participating countries in proportion to their population size. Only after each country receives vaccine doses for 20% of its population would countries’ covid risk profiles be considered in a subsequent phase of vaccine distribution.
However, countries participating in COVAX are also permitted to pursue bilateral contracts with vaccine manufacturers, like the one between the UK and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Many high income ,and even middle income countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam, have secured vaccine supplies through bilateral agreements, prompting Ghebreyesus to urge nations to consider the bigger picture.
His comments came as Britain approved a third vaccine for use in its nationwide immunisation programme.
Watch: Moderna jab approved for use in Britain
Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use, the health ministry said.
The Pfizer/BioNTech jab and one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca are already being administered.
Britain now has 17 million doses of Moderna's vaccine on order.
Boris Johnson has said that he wants everyone in the "top four priority groups" to have been offered a first dose of one of the vaccines by the middle of February, amounting to 13 million people.
Top of the priority list are people who live and work in care homes, followed by people over the age of 80 and frontline health and social care workers - including NHS staff.
Next on the list are people over the age 75, and the fourth group are people aged 70 and those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable.
This last group - who are the same as those who have been advised to shield - includes people such as organ transplant recipients and cancer patients.
Johnson said that if this was achieved, it could mean a lifting of many restrictions in the UK.
"If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus,” he told a Downing Street press conference on Monday.
"And of course that will eventually enable us to lift many of the restrictions we've endured for so long."
Watch: What is long COVID?