By Sola Ogundipe
THE rollout of COVID-19 vaccines to most countries is being hampered by a shortage of vaccine doses according to the World Health Organisation, WHO, and Gavi Alliance, a public-private partnership that works to provide vaccines for developing countries.
While countries in the developed world in general, have marched ahead with their vaccination programmes since the first shots were approved in late 2020, there are at least 30 countries yet to start vaccinations including in Africa.
Expressing concern of the development, the CEO of Gavi, and head of the COVAX Facility, Dr Seth Berkely who spoke in Geneva, weekend, said even though the vaccine rollout is expected to reach over 100 countries from 84 at present, a shortage of supplies remains the limiting factor.
Berkely, an epidemiologist, noted: “We had expected, in March and April, about 90 million doses, and we suspect we’ll get much, much less than that, and that is a problem.
“If we had more doses, we could make these available. What we’re talking about now is ultimately getting access to the large manufacturing facilities.
“The big challenge here is the inequity that we talk about between developed countries and developing countries.
“We are only safe if everybody is safe, and nothing tells us this like the new variants, because if we have large populations that are not vaccinated, then there is the risk that we will see new variants pop out and they will continue to spread across the world,” he said.
COVAX, the largest global vaccination programme in history has placed orders for more than two billion shots, but most will come in the second half of the year.
Berkely tied the delay to “vaccine nationalism” that will make fewer doses available.
India, for example, is the largest supplier of vaccines to the developing world, and it’s cut exports in a bid to more quickly vaccinate people at home in response to a new wave of COVID outbreaks.
Berkley said the US has been a supporter of Gavi and of COVAX but hoped at some point it will provide access to manufacturing capacity.
“Once the US needs are met, those facilities really could be used to come online for the rest of the world, which could help stop the acute pandemic,” he said.
More than 650 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but the rollouts in advanced economies have outpaced developing economies. Experts have warned that the world is on the brink of “catastrophic moral failure” as poor countries fall behind.
India reported a record rise in COVID-19 infections on Monday, becoming the second country after the United States to post more than 100,000 new cases in one day, fueling fears that the virus could spread further.
The country’s daily infections rose 12-fold since early February. With 103,558 new infections, on Monday, India reported 12.6 million cases, the highest after the United States and Brazil, even as deaths jumped by 478, raising the total to 165,101.
Over the past week, India recorded the most number of infections globally. With the development, India’s temporary pause on major exports of the AstraZeneca’s shot is already being predicted to have what is described as a “catastrophic” impact if extended beyond April.