WHO Appeals For Vaccine Donations To Cover Huge COVAX Shortfall
COVAX vaccine deliveries have stopped because of supply shortages.

COVAX has a shortfall of 190 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, and the few manufacturers that have reached agreements with the facility will only deliver later in the year or even in 2022, World Health Organization (WHO) Director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

“Pfizer has committed to providing 40 million doses of vaccines to COVAX this year, but the majority of these would be [delivered] in the second half of 2021. We need those right now and call on them to bring forward deliveries, as soon as possible,” Tedros told the body’s biweekly pandemic briefing.

“Moderna has signed a deal for 500 million doses with COVAX but the majority has been promised only for 2022. We need Moderna to bring hundreds of millions of this forward into 2021 due to the acute moment of this pandemic.”

Meanwhile, COVAX discussions with Johnson & Johnson about getting its vaccine had not been finalised, he added.

“While we appreciate the work of AstraZeneca, who have been steadily increasing the speed and volume of their deliveries, we need other manufacturers to follow suit,” stressed Tedros.

Shortly after the WHO press conference, US President Joe Biden announced a major donation of 80 million vaccine doses that he said will be sent immediately overseas.

G7 Could Donate 153 Million Doses, Says UNICEF

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore also drew attention to the COVAX shortfall in a statement on Monday, urging wealthy countries to donate doses to the facility.

“G7 leaders will be meeting next month with a potential emergency stop-gap measure readily available,” said Fore, referring to research by Airfinity that showed that G7 nations and the ‘Team Europe’ group of European Union member states could donate around 153 million vaccine doses if they shared 20% of their supplies for June, July and August. 

Fore said that soaring domestic demand for vaccines in India meant that 140 million doses intended for distribution to low- and middle-income countries by the end of May could not be accessed by COVAX. 

“Another 50 million doses are likely to be missed in June,” said Fore. “This, added to vaccine nationalism, limited production capacity and lack of funding, is why the roll-out of COVID vaccines is so behind schedule.”

She warned that the “deadly spike” in India could be a precursor to what might happen in other low- and middle-income countries “without equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics”. 

“While the situation in India is tragic, it is not unique. Cases are exploding and health systems are struggling in countries near – like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives – and far, like Argentina and Brazil,” stressed Fore. “Sharing immediately available excess doses is a minimum, essential and emergency stop-gap measure, and it is needed right now.”

Tedros added that manufacturers needed to give the right of first refusal to COVAX for any additional dose capacity and also enter into their deals with manufacturers such as Inceptor, Biolyse, Teva and others that are willing to use their facilities to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

This follows a report by Politico that large vaccine manufacturers had so far failed to take up offers by smaller manufacturers – Bangladesh’s Incepta, Canada’s Biolyse, Israel’s Teva, and Bavarian Nordic in Denmark – to assist with vaccine manufacturing.

Bruce Aylward, WHO’s lead at COVAX, stressed that the vaccine platform’s aim to ensure that  20% of the world’s population was vaccinated by the end of the year was “at risk” because of supply shortages.

However, he said that COVAX was in talks with a number of countries and was hopeful about “the possibility of larger-scale donations over the coming days, hopefully weeks at the longest”.

“I’d like to emphasise that, in speaking to everyone, no one has surplus doses”, but would be donating from what they had,” said Aylward.

Norway and Sweden have already made donations, while France, New Zealand, Belgium, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Spain, Portugal and US have all indicated that they want to donate. 

“What we’re hoping now that these pledges of donations can rapidly change into actual shipments of vaccines to countries that need them,” said Aylward.

He added that the WHO and UNICEF were concerned that the gap between rich and poor countries was widening, as wealthier countries vaccinated “younger populations, non-risk populations in terms of severe disease” while many countries still did not have access to vaccines to cover healthcare workers and older people.

Call for Low-Speed Cities

Road safety advocate Zoleka Mandela

This week UN Global Road Safety week and road safety advocate Zoleka Mandela joined the briefing to make an appeal for “low-speed cities”.

“Throughout the pandemic, as cities around the world locked down and the traffic dropped, we’ve seen a different reality where road traffic injury have been briefly lowered, where our air was made cleaner, and our communities, in some ways, became more livable,” said Mandela, the granddaughter of iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela.

“Now of course we need our cities to be fully functioning again. But what our campaigning has been focused on is how we can take some of these temporary benefits, and make them more permanent,” said Mandela.

“I lost my daughter, Zenani Mandela, to road traffic injury. She was killed on a Johannesburg road and had just celebrated her 13th birthday. I have never recovered from this. And my family has never recovered from this. No family ever does,” said Mandela.

“Every day, 3000 children and young people are killed or injured on the world’s roads. This is a crisis which is manmade, and one that is entirely preventable.”

“Our call to action launch today is for low-speed streets in every community all around the world,”  said Mandela, who called for urban streets where children and elderly mix with traffic to have 30km per hour speed limits.

“Spain has committed to 30km an hour in its cities, the whole of the Brussels City region has been going at 30, and there’s work for low-speed streets all around the world from Bogota, and Mexico City,” she said.


Image Credits: WHO, UNICEF.

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