Pakistan, Afghanistan & Yemen Among Countries With Biggest Vaccine Supply Gaps; US Promises More Jabs for Conflict Zones Health Equity 11/11/2021 • Elaine Ruth Fletcher Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) COVID-19 Ministerial meeting, convened by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Pakistan and eight other countries, mostly in or around conflict zones, face the largest gaps in vaccine commitments needed to reach a WHO goal of 70% coverage by September 2022. The data is part of a new “COVID Global Tracker” – launched Wednesday during a first-ever meeting of the world’s foreign ministers, convened by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. At the meeting, the US also announced that it had brokered a deal to deliver more J&J one-shot vaccines to countries in humanitarian crisis. Pakistan, which has a population of some 221 million people, is short nearly 60 million doses, according to the new data tracker. Data from the other countries, locked in prolonged crises or conflict, reflects the fact that, so far, most of the doses that will be needed have not yet been secured at all. For instance, Afghanistan, with a population of 39 million people, remains short 22 million vaccine doses. Yemen, with a population of 30 million, is short some 18 million doses. And the Democratic Republic of Korea (PRK), with a population of some 26 million people, is some 16 million doses. The gaps between demand and supplies available to the countries with the biggest long-term needs would be narrowed if one-shot J&J shots are deployed. Syria with a population of 17.5 million people is short 11 million doses, and Haiti (HTI), with 11.4 million people, is short some 7 million doses. Other countries on the list include Papua New Guinea (pop: 9 m), Nicaragua (pop: 6.6 m) and Laos (pop: 7.3 m). Top 9 Countries with Largest Gaps to Reach 70% Coverage (millions of doses) Data published on the “COVID Global Tracker, highlights in vivid detail the shortfall in vaccine access that low- and middle-income countries face, including a large swathe of Africa – and which is likely to persist throughout 2022. First-ever meeting of foreign ministers on COVID pandemic The meeting marked the first time that the US had convened foreign ministers to discuss responses to the COVID-19 pandemic since it began in February of 2020. Ït brought together some 40 ministers, including China’s, said Gayle Smith, State Department coordinator for global COVID-19 response in a press readout following the meeting. Noting that the pandemic is not just a health crisis but a security, economic and humanitarian crisis, Blinken said, “we need foreign ministers to step up and lead as well.” In press statements after the meeting, Blinken also called for expanded government and private sector collaborations to expand vaccine manufacturing, unlock supply logjams, and support expanded vaccination efforts in low- and middle-income countries. Only 13% of COVAX contracted doses delivered so far – ministerial meeting fails to yield more concrete commitments on delivery But the meeting did not translate into any immediate commitment to close the gap in dose deliveries to low- and middle WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, asked ministers to immediately set up a working group to deliver the estimated 514-680 million vaccine doses that would be needed needed to ensure 40 percent of each country’s population is vaccinated by year’s end. Some some 74 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, remain off track for meeting that 40% coverage goal, according to the data on the newly-released COVID19 Global Tracker. Sixty of those countries are among the 91 low- and middle-income countries that are primarily depending on COVAX, or the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), for deliveries. The remainder are in fact upper-middle income countries that have fallen through the cracks. Expected Effective Vaccine Supply at End-2021 (% of Total Population): Most of sub-saharan Africa, and parts of Asia, could, at best, only reach 10-20% coverage – as compared to the 40% WHO goal. Only 13% of doses contracted by COVAX, and 6% of doses contracted by AVATT have actually been made available for delivery so far by manufacturers, the COVID Global Tracker also shows. That translates into a whopping 3.45 billion COVAX doses still missing from supplies, according to the Global COVID Tracker. Civil Society groups issue new call to prioritze LMICs in new dose deliveries as well as donations Along with WHO’s call on rich countries to release more dose donations, civil society groups called upon the ministers to let low- and middle-income countries jump the line – and receive first priority for forthcoming vaccine deliveries. The ministers should “agree to share all doses between those needed for domestic demand, as soon as they come off the production line,” in coordination with COVAX and AVATT, stated the open letter signed by nearly 40 civil society groups, including the Rockefeller and Open Societies Foundations: “HICs must publicly commit to send their expected deliveries straight to COVAX and regional mechanisms in Q4 2021 and organize this without delay with pharmaceutical and delivery companies. Ministers must use all routes available, including donations and ‘queue swaps’, to deliver doses to LMICs quickly.” But far those appeals have failed to get a response – including at the recent meeting. G-20 countries also remain far off course in delivering doses against promised donations. Insufficient progress on delivering pledged doses to COVAX – across most high-income countries Waiving Indemnity – eases vaccine delivery to crises regions On a brighter note, the US deal with J&J should ease the flow of those one-shot vaccines, including US vaccine donations, to a range of states in crises. The arrangement involves the company’s waiving of liability requirements that vaccine manufacturers typically demand of countries before vaccine acquisition deals are signed. “I’m pleased to share that the United States has helped broker a deal between J&J and COVAX to facilitate the first delivery of J&J vaccines to people living in conflict zones and other humanitarian settings,” Blinken said at the meeting. “We’re eager for people in these difficult circumstances to get protection against COVID-19 as soon as possible. We know the urgency of this fight,” he added. “We’ve got to be relentless because this pandemic is relentless. And we have to be coordinated, united, because that’s what a global health emergency like this requires.” Only a handful of other Chinese firms have also waived such indemnity requirements, including: Sinopharm and Sinovac, which have WHO-approved jabs on the market, as well as the biotech firm Clover, whose vaccine R&D was has been supported by the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), followed by a recent IPO that raised $240 million on the Hong Kong stock exchange just last week. While still undergoing WHO review, Clover has already signed a deal with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to supply its vaccine to COVAX following successful results of a Phase 2/3, multi-country trial of 30,000 people. In that trial, Clover announced that it’s vaccine had been 84% efficacious against moderate-to-severe COVID, and 100% efficacious against severe COVID. Image Credits: US Department of State, https://covid19globaltracker.org/, https://covid19globaltracker.org/. 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