COVID fight could return ‘to square one’: experts sound vaccines alarm

New York Post

05-21-2021

It was already around 100 million doses short of where it had planned to be when India halted exports a month ago amid a surge in infections there. She and others said it was imperative that wealthy countries and regions make good on their rhetoric and share excess vaccines now. It has so far distributed about 65 million doses of mainly the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, many of them to Africa. A spokeswoman for the GAVI vaccines alliance, which co-leads COVAX, said the facility was working hard to make up supplies. Vaccine sharing announced by EU member states has so far amounted to 11.1 million vaccines, he said, of which 9 million are being shared via COVAX.

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Vaccine producers and the world’s leading economies attempt to find ways to help poorer nations inoculate populations. Pfizer and BioNTech said they would make one billion cut-price doses available this year to poorer nations. Johnson & Johnson promised 200 million doses of its shot to COVAX, which is co-led by the WHO. Leaders agreed that one option to help poorer nations was sharing vaccines that wealthy countries have already purchased. The COVAX programme, which is dedicated to equitable global vaccine distribution, was mentioned as one option for providing donated doses to countries.

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Several African countries lack AstraZeneca vaccines to administer second doses after India bans exports due to crisis. Africa’s vaccination campaigns to battle COVID-19 are facing significant delays because of the export ban imposed by India as it grapples with a devastating resurgence of the disease, Africa’s top health official has said. But as a result of India’s ban on exports, those countries do not have AstraZeneca vaccines to give people their second doses. South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Egypt together account for about 60 percent of all infections recorded in the continent. Nkengasong said nine African countries have detected the variant that is now dominant in India.

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To date, some 1.53 billion doses have been administered globally, but only around 1% of them in Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, Pfizer (PFE.N) and BioNTech pledged to make available 1 billion cut-price doses this year to poorer nations. Another 1 billion vaccines would be provided next year, Pfizer boss Albert Bourla said. read moreJohnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) promised 200 million doses of its vaccine to COVAX, a vaccine-sharing programme co-led by the WHO. The COVAX program, which is dedicated to equitable global vaccine distribution, was also mentioned as a way of providing donated doses to countries.

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"We will do our part: #TeamEurope aims at donating at least 100 million doses to low and middle income countries by the end of 2021." The tweet came just as EU countries issued their own pledges totaling 110 million, with 50 million from Italy, 30 million from France and 30 million from Germany. The most recent draft of the Council conclusions, seen by POLITICO, puts the 100 million target in brackets, so it's likely countries will agree to donate more next week. "Remember, the doses belong to the member states — not the Commission," the diplomat said. Another EU diplomat quipped that countries were "curious where in the Berlaymont the Commission stores its 100 million doses."