COVAX Will Be Able To Give Country Data On Expected COVID Vaccine Allocations Within ‘Next Day’
The COVAX facility was launched to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Member countries will have an idea of how many COVID vaccine doses they will receive via the World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility and when they will arrive within the next day, WHO special advisor Dr Bruce Alyward has said.

These “indicative allocations” would depend on when the WHO’s regulatory review of the specific vaccines that COVAX plans to distribute is completed, as well as on the volumes the companies can produce, Aylward told reporters Friday at WHO’s bi-weekly media pandemic briefing.

“As you know, some companies are having challenges, so that is going to affect potentially what those volumes actually look like,” said Aylward.

COVAX – WHO’s co-led platform dedicated to equitable vaccine distribution – has made its largest deal with AstraZeneca, but the Organization is yet to issue the vaccine an emergency use license (EUL).

It expects to have completed its review of the company’s research within the next two weeks.

Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO Senior Advisor to the Director General.

COVAX is expecting its supply of AstraZeneca vaccines to be produced by the Serum Institute of India, along with a smaller number of Pfizer vaccines, thanks to a recent deal.

This week, AstraZeneca informed the European Commission that there would be a 60% shortfall in vaccine deliveries to Europe this quarter due to a manufacturing issue at a production plant in Belgium.

But the Commission had its doubts over this given explanation and has said it would establish a new mechanism that grants national regulators the power to refuse exports of vaccines following an investigation into the production facility.

Share Vaccines To Ensure Global Coverage Of Health Workers & Elderly

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of the WHO’s declaration of SARS-CoV-2 as a “public health emergency of international concern”. At that time, there were only around 100 known cases. That number has now passed 100 million.

At the briefing, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, once again appealed for equitable access to vaccines, starting with a global rollout to all health workers and the elderly: “For now, vaccines are a limited resource. We must use them as effectively and as fairly as we can. If we do that, lives will be saved.

“That’s why I have challenged governments and industry leaders to work together to ensure that, in the first 100 days of 2021, the vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries.”

Harriet Nayiga, a midwife from Kenya, and Sana Baloch, a nurse in Pakistan, both addressed the press conference to explain their vulnerability to infection.

“We engage with the patient for more hours than any other health worker, so we need to be prioritised to be vaccinated first,” said Nayiga.

Sana Baloch
Pakistani nurse Sana Baloch appealed for vaccines for all health workers.

Baloch said that around 10,000 Pakistani health workers had been infected by the virus and hundreds had died.

Her hospital had “a huge influx of patients” and the “nurses, doctors and paramedics were in great distress”, she said.

“It is our moral responsibility and our job to take care of those patients. We were the only hope of the patients who were admitted in COVID wards where they were not allowed to meet or to see anybody. We cannot leave them alone. But at the same time, we need protection,” said Baloch.

“I appeal to the leaders of the world: please distribute the vaccine on an equitable basis. If you have enough resources to vaccinate all your elderly and all your health care providers, consider donating or help out less developed countries who do not have enough to even vaccinate their health care providers or elders, before moving to the less vulnerable of your population.”

Dr Tedros said that countries that had secured vaccines should share these with COVAX. “My message to people in countries that are now rolling out vaccines is to use your voice to advocate for your government to share those. If you’re someone at lower risk, please wait your turn. Health care workers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic but are often under-protected and overexposed. They need vaccines now.”

Countries Need To Support Travellers With Quarantine And Testing

Dr Michael Ryan, WHO Executive Director of Health Emergencies, said that the expansion of rapid diagnostic tests was “bringing a new and very useful tool to bear, taking pressure off the existing PCR based testing systems”.

But he appealed for coherent messages around travel and asked governments to respect the human rights and comfort of travelers, particularly as the process of travel itself has been “significantly de-risked” thanks to efforts from the travel industry.

Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

“Those countries with very low incidents are very, very afraid about re-importing cases, and may have more stringent testing in place. Other countries are worried about the arrival of potential variants that will further complicated situations and they’re targeting reducing movement from certain countries in order to be able to avoid that,” said Ryan.

“We do need coherent messaging around travel requirements. If you’re going to require that travellers arriving in the country quarantine for a particular period or have to be tested, governments should be supporting that process.

“It is very difficult for a traveller arriving to be able to comply sometimes if they don’t get the support to comply. Governments are continuing to try and increase and ramp up their efforts to break chains of transmission and to manage risks. But we also must do that and invest properly in those mechanisms so that people who are travelling between countries are treated with regard to their comfort and their human rights.”

Image Credits: WHO, CIO Look/Flickr, WHO, Screenshot.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.