While the COVAX Facility reached a milestone of making vaccine doses available (38 million) in more than 100 “economies”, as a press statement articulated last week, the questions on its effectiveness and limitations continue to get louder.
At the Africa’s Vaccine Manufacturing Virtual Conference, organized by Africa CDC, Andrew Witty, ex-CEO of GSK, and a former special envoy of the ACT Accelerator acknowledged the limitations of the COVAX Facility.
To be sure, the uncertainties facing supplies of vaccines have been confirmed at the highest levels. Last week, Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi – The Vaccine Alliance said that while efforts will made to make available 2.3 billion doses by the end of 2021, the first six months of 2021 will only see 20% of those doses reaching countries. This is lower than initial estimates. In addition, even these existing projections are subject to changes on account of production uncertainties.
(COVAX was expecting to distribute almost 100 million doses by the end of March, but due to a marked reduction in supply, only 38 million doses were distributed. Authorities hope to catch up in April and May. More than 700 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 87% have gone to high income or upper middle-income countries, while low income countries have received just 0.2%.)
As we reported earlier, the response of global health agencies to address these shortages has been to go down further on the path, which created these uncertainties in the first place – namely tightly controlled bilateral deals that have failed to expand manufacturing of vaccines at the pace needed to meet current global demand.
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