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WHO struggling to secure vaccines for ‘needy’ countries


TOUGH TIMES: WHO chief Tedros

Geneva, Switzerland | THE INDEPENDENT | The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned there could be delays to delivering vaccines to ‘needy’ countries like Uganda, if developed countries do not stop hoarding supplies.

The world health body appealed to countries that have contracted more vaccines than they will need, and are controlling the global supply, to also donate and release them.

“At the outset, rich countries have bought up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines. At present, 42 countries are rolling out safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, with 36 of these being high-income countries and six are middle-income,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s opening remarks at amedia briefing on COVID-19 on January 8, 2021.

“So there’s a clear problem that low- and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet. This is a problem we can and we must solve together through COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator,” he said.

COVAX – set up by GAVI, CEPI and WHO in April last year – has now secured contracts of 2 billion doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, which they are ready to rollout as soon as the vaccines are delivered. COVAX also have the right of first refusal on an additional 1 billion doses.

But the scramble for vaccines could delay the COVAX plan, with manufacturers delaying to deliver, while some countries originally on the WHO plan for cheaper drugs, are making their own deals.

“Now we’re also seeing both high and middle-income countries, that are part of COVAX, making additional bilateral deals. 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,” Tedros warned. (read FULL speech page 2)

VIDEO: COVAX plan related to India manufacture

“Vaccine nationalism hurts us all and is self-defeating. But on the flipside, vaccinating equitably saves lives, stablises health systems and would lead to a truly global economic recovery that stimulates job creation.”

Tedros urged manufacturers to prioritise supply and rollout through COVAX and urged countries that have contracted more vaccines than they will need, and are controlling the global supply, to also donate and release them to COVAX , that is ready to rollout .

“I urge countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of COVAX.”

What is COVAX?

Vials ready to store the new CoviShield vaccine from India

Since most developing countries cannot compete on an open market for the COVID-19 vaccines,  World Health Organization have planned joint purchases for these nations in an initiative that also has vaccines alliance GAVI and CEPI-  Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations –  a global coalition to fight epidemics

This is supported by funds from wealthy nations in a program dubbed COVAX, one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator that focusses on developing a COVID-19 vaccine.

It is seen as the only global solution to the pandemic which will ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth.

A total of 156 economies representing nearly two-thirds of the world’s population have joined the COVAX Facility. This includes 64 higher-income economies, which are self-financing in procuring COVID-19 vaccines once available, and 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for support for the procurement of vaccines through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) coordinated by the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a financing instrument aimed at supporting the procurement of vaccines for these countries

Currently, CEPI is leading COVAX vaccine research and development work, which aims to develop at least three safe and effective vaccines.

Nine candidate vaccines are being supported by CEPI, eight of which are in clinical trials. COVAX’s core aim is to have 2 billion vaccine doses available by the end of 2021. ( Page 2 – Uganda on list of 92 countries to benefit from COVAX AMC)

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