COVAX Needs ‘Urgent’ Donation Of 10 Million Vaccine Doses For Last 20 Countries In Global Queue – After Indian Supply Suspended
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

COVAX has run out of COVID-19 vaccines to supply the last 20 countries in the world that have not yet started vaccinations, and it urgently needs a donation of 10 million doses from either manufacturers or countries that have piiled up surplus doses, according to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

While 36 countries have not yet started vaccinations, 16 of these are due to receive COVAX deliveries within the next two weeks, Tedros told the WHO bi-weekly pandemic briefing on Friday.

“That leaves 20 countries who are ready to go and waiting for vaccines. COVAX is ready to deliver, but we can’t deliver vaccines we don’t have,” said Tedros, who set a global target of vaccination drives in all countries within the first 100 days of 2021.

He blamed “bilateral deals, export bans, vaccine nationalism and vaccine diplomacy” for causing delays in “tens of millions of doses” for COVAX. 

“COVAX needs 10 million doses immediately as an urgent stop-gap measure so these 20 countries can start vaccinating their health workers, and older people within the next two weeks.”

Although the WHO director refrained from mentioning any countries by name, India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacture, has interrupted planned deliveries to COVAX in March and April of tens of millions of AstraZeneca doses, diverting the vaccines to domestic use following a new spike in cases in the country. The suspension of deliveries was confirmed by Gavi, The Vaccine Aliance on Thursday.  (see related story).

‘Plenty’ of Countries That Can Afford to Donate

Appealing for donations of vaccines that have WHO emergency use listing (EUL) from manufacturers and countries, Tedros said that “there are plenty of countries who can afford to donate those with little disruption to their own vaccination plans”.

Only Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have WHO EUL. Four vaccines at different stages in the process of being assessed for EUL, and “at least one” was expected to be approved by the end of April, according to Tedros.

So far, 177 countries have started vaccinations, and COVAX has distributed more than 32 million vaccines to 61 countries in a single month. 

WHO’s COVAX representative, Bruce Aylward, acknowledged that political leaders were under incredible pressure from their citizens to deliver vaccines but stressed that “it’s the right thing to do to make sure everyone has access to vaccines”.

“We also have an economic reason to get to the world’s economy going, and we also have a health security reason because of variants,” stressed Aylward.

Criminals, Corruption and Fake Vaccines

The Director-General also warned of the danger of criminals exploiting the “huge global unmet demand for vaccines” and urged people not to buy vaccines outside government-run vaccination programmes as these could be “sub-standard or falsified”.

“A number of ministries of health, national regulatory authorities, and public procurement organisations have received suspicious offers to supply COVID-19 vaccines,” warned Tedros.

“We’re also aware of vaccines being diverted and reintroduced into the supply chain, with no guarantee that cold chain has been maintained. Some falsified products are also being sold as vaccines on the internet, especially on the dark web,” he warned.

WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove

Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s Technical Lead on COVID-19, said that there had been a 15% increase in COVID-19 cases in the past week, with all six WHO regions showing increases.

She stressed that while “we might be tired of the pandemic, it is not finished with us”, and that masks, hand-washing and our “mixing patterns” were the only measures that could keep us safe in the face of the global shortage of vaccines.

“Fifteen months in, people want this to be over, but we still have to put in the work. All of us have a role to play here in reducing transmission and this includes during holidays,” stressed Van Kerkhove, referring to the looming Passover and Easter holidays.

“All of us want to spend time with our families and travel around and, and there are safe ways to be able to start to do this, but we need to think about what each of us are doing every day. We will get to a point where this pandemic will be over. I promise we will get there, but we need to put in the work now to drive transmission down,” she stressed.


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