World Health Organization officials said Tuesday that the unvaccinated are “dying unnecessarily” from Covid-19, citing global vaccine inequities as one of the main obstacles to immunizing more people against the virus.

Some 56 countries fell short of the WHO’s goal of getting 10% of their populations immunized against the virus by the end of September, officials said in a Q&A live streamed on the organization’s social media channels. Increasing access to vaccines would help reduce Covid deaths and hospitalizations as the world approaches 5 million coronavirus fatalities, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19.

“Not meeting that target is heartbreaking, it’s more than heartbreaking, it’s more than frustrating,” she said. “It’s beyond words, I have to say, because if we had used the more than 6 billion vaccines that have been administered today differently, we would be in a very, very different situation right now.

She said the data on the Covid vaccines shows very clearly that they are safe and effective at preventing hospitalizations and death.

“They just need to be accessible” to more people, she said. “The result of this are people who are dying unnecessarily.”

Van Kerkhove’s comments echo those of U.S. health officials who have said that almost all Covid deaths recorded nationwide have been among unvaccinated patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Sept. 10 that unvaccinated people are 11 times likelier to die from Covid, ten times likelier to require hospitalization for their symptoms and roughly 4.5 likelier to contract the virus overall.

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