At Risk: COVAX Plans to Vaccinate 20% of the People in LMICs

The challenges for the world’s most vulnerable in accessing vaccine doses to protect themselves from a devastating pandemic gets more acute every week. Only 0.3% of the vaccine supply is going to low-income countries.

COVAX has so far delivered 65 million doses to 124 countries. The surge in cases has compromised global vaccine supply and there is already a shortfall of 190 million doses to COVAX by the end of June, WHO has said.

UNICEF was more direct in encapsulating the failure of the international mechanism: “The COVAX Facility will deliver its 65 millionth vaccine dose this week. It should’ve been at least its 170 millionth. The time to donate excess doses is now.”

A top WHO official admitted this week, that initial plans to vaccinate 20% of the populations in LMICs might be at risk. Bruce Aylward, who leads the ACT Accelerator efforts at WHO, said at a briefing that the Facility faces a gap of 150 million by the end of May and that gap will increase in June. This could put at risk, the goal of vaccinating 20% of the people in the AMC countries, he said. Nearly 25% of those countries who would otherwise not have had access to any vaccines, have got their doses through COVAX, he said emphasizing that the Facility works.

The need is to get control of the contracted doses and get countries who have committed to share doses to quickly ensure shipments of those doses, he added.

The Facility also expects more pledges and donations at the Global Health Summit on May 21 and at the G7 meeting in June.

The calls for more transparency in the supply forecasts from The COVAX Facility has gone louder in recent days, with even the International Chamber of Commerce calling for greater transparency on “when countries can expect shipments – and, if there are bottlenecks or issues getting orders to some countries, how these can be addressed.”

It was somewhat curious that CEPI, a partner of the COVAX Facility, which invested in vaccines doses acknowledged “the missed opportunity” in ensuring equitable access. “The great missed opportunity of 2020 is that the funders of vaccine development did not include access provisions in their funding agreements,” said Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. Funders could develop and adopt common approaches to achieving equitable access including in their grant and contract provisions, he said at the COVID-19 Global Research & Innovation Forum last week.

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