LONDON (AP) – As many as 60 countries, including some of the world’s poorest, may be stopped by the first shots of their coronavirus vaccinations because almost all supplies through the global program aimed at helping them have been blocked until recently. as in June.
COVAX, the global initiative to deliver vaccines to countries that have no influence on negotiating scarce supplies alone, has in the past week shipped more than 25,000 doses to low-income countries just twice in a given day. Deliveries have almost stopped since Monday.
During the last two weeks, according to data collected daily by UNICEFfewer than 2 million COVAX doses in total were cleared for shipment to 92 countries in developing countries ̵
On Friday, the head of the World Health Organization smashed the “shocking imbalance” in the global COVID-19 vaccination. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said that while one in four people in rich countries had received a vaccine, only one in 500 people in poorer countries had received a dose.
Vaccine deficiency is mainly due to India’s decision to stop exporting vaccines from the Serum Institute plant, which produces the overwhelming majority of the AstraZeneca doses that COVAX estimated to supply about a third of the global population at a time, with coronavirus increasing worldwide.
COVAX will only send vaccines cleared by the WHO, and countries are increasingly impatient. Supplies are declining in some of the first countries to receive COVAX shipments, and the expected delivery of the second dose in the currently recommended 12-week window is now in doubt. In a statement, the vaccine alliance known as GAVI told the Associated Press that 60 countries are affected by the delays.
In vaccination tents set up at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, many of those who arrived for their first jabs were worried about when the second one would arrive.
“My fear is if I do not get the second dose, my immune system will be weak and therefore I may die,” said Oscar Odinga, an official.
Internal WHO documents obtained by the AP show the uncertainty surrounding deliveries “causes some countries to lose confidence in COVAX (efforts).” It makes the WHO consider speeding up its approval of vaccines from China and Russia that have not been approved by any regulators in Europe or North America.
WHO documents show that the UN agency faces questions from COVAX participants about allocations in addition to “uncertainty as to whether all those vaccinated in round 1 are guaranteed a different dose.”
The WHO declined to answer specifically to the questions raised in the internal material, but has previously said countries are “very keen” to get vaccines as soon as possible and insisted they have not heard any complaints about the process.
Concern over the link between the AstraZeneca shot and rare blood clots has also “created nervousness both about its safety and effectiveness,” the WHO noted. Among the proposed solutions is a decision to “speed up the review of additional products” from China and Russia.
The WHO said last month that it might be possible to set up Greenlandic Chinese vaccines at the end of April.
Some experts have noted that Sinopharm and Sinovac, two Chinese-made vaccines, lack published data and there are reports of people needing a third dose to be protected.
“If there is one thing we miss about not having done a thorough evaluation of the risk of serious side effects from these vaccines, it would undermine confidence in all the good products we use that we know are safe,” said Dora Curry, director . of health justice and rights at CARE International.
Other experts worried that delays could destroy confidence in governments that were particularly effective in their vaccination programs and soon reckoned with the second dose.
“In the absence of high global vaccination coverage, we risk dragging out the pandemic for several years,” said Lavanya Vasudevan, an assistant professor at Duke University’s Global Health Institute. “Every day, when the virus is in circulation, it is a possibility that it is mutated into a more deadly variant.”
Earlier this month, the WHO appealed to rich countries to divide 10 million doses as soon as possible to meet the UN goal of launching COVID-19 vaccinations in each country within the first 100 days of the year. So far, countries have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to COVAX. But there are simply no doses to buy, and no country has agreed to immediately share what it has.
Bilateral donations of doses tend to go along policy lines, rather than to countries with the most infections, and they are not close enough to compensate for the targets set by COVAX. Think global health, a data site administered by the Council on Foreign Relations, identified 19 countries that have donated a total of 27.5 million doses to 102 nations as of Thursday.
“You can make a strong argument that it is better for us to make donations in crisis and get the pandemic under control than to vaccinate low-risk groups at home,” said Thomas Bollyky, director of the Global Health Program at the Foreign Affairs Council. Bollyky said COVAX was both a big disappointment and the only option available to most people in the world.
According to the International Rescue Committee, COVID-19 cases and deaths increased last month in several crisis-stricken countries: by 322% in Kenya, 379% in Yemen and 529% in north-eastern Syria.
On Thursday, the agencies behind COVAX – WHO, the vaccination alliance GAVI and CEPI, a coalition for epidemic preparedness – celebrated their delivery of 38 million life-saving vaccines to more than 100 countries.
Brook Baker, a vaccine expert at Northeastern University, said the praise message was misplaced.
“Celebrating doses sufficient for just 19 million people or 0.25% of the global population is tone deaf,” he said, adding that it was time for the WHO and partners to be more honest with countries.
“WHO and GAVI have repeatedly over-promoted and under-delivered, so why should we think they will suddenly be able to increase production and deliveries in a few months?” he said.
Outside the vaccination tents in Nairobi on Thursday, Dr. Duncan Nyukuri, an infectious disease doctor, reassures people about getting their first dose.
“If you receive the first dose and you do not receive the second dose, it does not mean that your body is getting weaker or that you are at increased risk of getting an infection,” he said. “What this means is that your body will have developed some immunity to the coronavirus infection. However, this immunity is not as good as someone who has received both doses. ”
Hinnant reported from Paris. Khaled Kazziha in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed.
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