Covid19 – Vaccine shortage hits poor countries
As many as 60 countries, including some of the world’s poorest, might be stalled at the first shots of their coronavirus vaccines because nearly all deliveries through the global program intended to help them are blocked until as late as June.
COVAX, the global initiative to provide vaccines to countries lacking the clout to negotiate for scarce supplies on their own, has in the past week shipped more than 25,000 doses to low-income countries only twice on any given day.
The vaccine shortage stems mostly from India’s decision to stop exporting vaccines from its Serum Institute factory, which produces the overwhelming majority of the AstraZeneca doses that COVAX counted on to supply around a third of the global population at a time coronavirus is spiking worldwide.
Earlier this month, the WHO appealed to rich countries to urgently share 10 million doses to meet the U.N. target of starting COVID-19 vaccinations in every 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.
After the country shipped or donated more than 60 million doses of Covid vaccine, India last month said it would slow down exports to focus on its own requirements. The world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, is a key supplier to Covax, a program through which 2 billion vaccine doses are supposed to be distributed to middle and low-income countries, many of which can’t afford to sign procurement contracts on their own.