India’s corona crisis hits global vaccine-sharing scheme

PT Jyothi Datta | | | Updated on: May 28, 2021

NEW DELHI, 18/05/2021: A healthcare worker displayed empty vials of covishield vaccine during the vaccination drive age group of 18-44, at a Vaccination center, Government School in West Delhi on Tuesday. May 18, 2021.Photo: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR / The Hindu | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Covax faces a 190-million shortfall of Covid-19 vaccines

The surge of the coronavirus in India has resulted in a shortfall of 190 million Covid-19 vaccine supplies to Covax, and its impact could be “catastrophic”, said the World Health Organization in a joint statement with other Covax stakeholders.

Calling for concerted action and global leadership, the multilateral agency said, the “terrible surge of the virus in India has had a severe impact on COVAX’s supply in the second quarter of this year, to the point where, by the end of June we will face a shortfall of 190 million doses.”

And even though Covax will have larger volumes available later in the year through the deals already secured with several manufacturers, “if we do not address the current, urgent shortfall the consequences could be catastrophic,” the WHO said, along with CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), GAVI, the vaccine alliance and Unicef. Covax is the vaccines pillar of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, co-convened by multiple agencies, including the above mentioned.

“Countries with higher coverage rates, which are due to receive doses soon should swap their places in supply queues with COVAX so that doses can be equitably distributed as quickly as possible,”they said.

India’s Serum Institute is a supplier to Covax and has been unable to keep its commitment as coronavirus cases surged and the vaccination drive was expanded in India.

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Millions of dollars and doses have been committed to Covax on May 21, bringing the number of total doses pledged to more than 150 million. And, at the World Health Assembly, governments have been united in recognising the political and financial urgency of supporting Covax with doses and dollars, the agencies said.

If the world’s leaders rally together, Covax’s original objective — delivery of 2 billion doses of vaccines worldwide in 2021, and 1.8 billion doses to 92 lower income economies by early 2022 — are still well within reach, the agencies said.

Sharing the doses

The Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment has already secured 1.3 billion doses for delivery in 2021. While this was enough to protect the most at-risk population groups, health workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, an additional $2 billion was needed to lift coverage in AMC countries up to nearly 30 per cent “and we need it by June 2 to lock in supplies now so that doses can be delivered through 2021, and into early 2022,” the note said.

Covid-19: WHO reminds Serum Institute of its COVAX commitments

Urging countries to share doses “now”, the note said, “the pandemic has just taken a frightening new turn, as a deadly surge of cases rages across South Asia and other hotspots. Countries with the largest supplies should redirect doses to COVAX now, to have maximum impact.”

Countries are stepping forward with doses, with the United States and Europe collectively pledging to share 180 million doses. At least one billion doses could be shared by wealthy countries in 2021, the agencies noted.

Supply constraints

Administrations need to free up supply chains by removing trade barriers, export control measures, and other transit issues that block, restrict or slowdown the supply and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, raw materials, components and supplies.

“By donating vaccines to COVAX alongside domestic vaccination programmes, the most at-risk populations can be protected globally, which is instrumental to ending the acute phase of the pandemic, curbing the rise and threat of variants, and accelerating a return to normality,” they added.

Published on May 28, 2021
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