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Covid Vaccines Drying Up in Poorer Countries, Says WHO; Points Towards Global Class Divide

Aeon employees receive the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the company's shopping mall in China

Aeon employees receive the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the company's shopping mall in China

On Monday the administration of US President Joe Biden announced how it planned to donate 55 million vaccine doses to countries in need.

Highlighting global vaccine inequity, the World Health Organization (WHO) said a large number of poor countries do not have enough doses to continue programmes. WHO senior adviser Dr Bruce Aylward said the Covax programme had delivered 90 million doses to 131 countries. However, he said, this was nowhere near enough to protect populations from a virus still spreading worldwide.

On a continental level, only 40 million doses have been administered so far in Africa, approximately less than 2 per cent of the population. The distribution of these vaccines has been hampered by manufacturing delays and supply disruptions, leading to shortages in countries wholly reliant on Covax.

The terrible surge of the coronavirus cases in India has also severely impacted COVAX’s vaccine supply in the second quarter of this year to the extent that there will be a shortfall of 190 million doses by the end of June, according to a joint statement by the WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and CEPI. The joint statement was issued on Thursday by Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) CEO Dr Richard Hatchett, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance CEO Dr Seth Berkley, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

Uganda, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Trinidad and Tobago are just some of the countries that have reported running out of vaccines in recent days.

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Of the 80 low-income countries involved in Covax, “at least half of them do not have sufficient vaccines to be able to sustain their programmes right now", Dr Aylward said.

On Monday the administration of US President Joe Biden announced how it planned to donate 55 million vaccine doses to countries in need. Of those, 41 million would be distributed through Covax, with the remaining 14 million shared with countries deemed to be priorities.

Some health experts believe it could be months - if not years - before enough people are vaccinated globally to declare an end to the pandemic.

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first published:June 22, 2021, 13:26 IST