NEW DELHI: With Americans, British and Canadians rolling up their sleeves to receive coronavirus vaccines, the way out of the pandemic now seems clear to many in the West, even if the launch will take many months. But for poorer countries, the road will be much longer and rougher.
The ambitious initiative, known as COVAX, created to ensure worldwide access to Covid-19 vaccines, has secured only a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy next year, has not yet confirmed any real agreement. for the delivery of vaccines and is cashless.
The virus, which has killed more than 1.6 million people, has exposed widespread inequities between countries, as fragile health systems and smaller economies have often been hit harder. COVAX was established by the World Health Organization, the alliance for GAVI and CEPI vaccines, a global epidemic control coalition, to avoid the international vaccine incident that has accompanied past outbreaks and would reinforce these imbalances.
But now some experts say the chances of coronavirus shootings being shared fairly among rich nations and the rest fading quickly. Given that supply of vaccines is currently limited, developed countries, some of which have helped fund research with taxpayers’ money, are under tremendous pressure to protect their own populations and buy fire. Meanwhile, some poorer countries that have signed up to the initiative are looking for alternatives because of fears they will not offer.
“It’s simple math,” he said Arnaud Bernaert, head of global health at the World Economic Forum. Of the approximately 12 billion doses that the pharmaceutical industry expects to produce next year, about 9 billion photographs have already been reserved by rich countries. “COVAX has not provided enough doses, and the way it can develop is that they will probably receive these doses quite late.”
So far, COVAX’s only legally confirmed agreement is up to 200 million doses, although that includes an option to order several times the number of additional doses, said GAVI spokesman James Fulker. . It has agreements for another 500 million vaccines, but they are not legally binding.
The 200 million doses will come from the Serum Institute in India, the company that is likely to do much of the coronavirus outbreak to the developing world. CEO Adar Poonawalla says he has a confirmed order for 100 million doses each of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and one from Novovax.
“We have nothing beyond that in writing,” he told The Associated Press. “If they want more, they will have to place more orders.”
He said the lack of commitment from COVAX will mean a much longer wait for people in developing countries. Poonawalla also mentioned that his company’s first priority would be to take photos for India, which suggested it wanted at least 300 million vaccines. India may not be able to take all of this at once, but a large order could delay the distribution of vaccines to other parts of the developing world, Poonawalla said.
Asked on Tuesday why the Serum Institute was contracted to produce just 200 million vaccines for COVAX, Dr Bruce Aylward of the WHO said he would return to the company “to make sure they have the insurance they need” . The institute was “absolutely crucial in providing many vaccines.”
The potential slowdown in the process is that neither AstraZeneca nor Novovax have been authorized by any regulatory agency yet _ and any injection of COVAX distributed will likely require WHO approval. COVAX does not have any of the two vaccines that seem to be the most effective to date _ the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Modern shot. The United Kingdom has already started administering the Pfizer vaccine and United States and Canada launches it this week. Some Gulf countries have authorized it.
However, GAVI said it “aims to launch safe and effective vaccines to COVAX (member countries) on a scale in the first and second quarters of the New Year”.
Even with vaccines in hand, the launches will take many months in rich countries, and many in developing countries face serious logistical challenges that will add to the delays, said Dr. Gagandeep Kang, an infectious disease expert at Christian College. of Medicine in Vellore, in the south of the country. India.
Senior WHO officials have privately acknowledged that attempts to allocate the vaccine equitably through the initiative are flawed, despite public appreciation of its success.
“The entire demand for global solidarity has been largely lost,” Dr Katherine O’Brien, WHO’s head of vaccines, said during a recent internal discussion, which was registered by the PA.
Asked to clarify his remarks, O’Brien said in an e-mail that “every country should have access to Covid-19 vaccines as soon as possible.”
In addition to the difficulties of COVAX, O’Brien mentioned at a press conference this month that there is still $ 5 billion left to buy the doses he intends to obtain next year.
According to a GAVI report issued before a meeting this week, the alliance itself concluded that the risk of COVAX’s failure was “very high”, saying it had been “set in record time and had to navigate untapped territory”.
John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, criticized Western countries for buying the global vaccine supply “in excess of their needs, while we in Africa are still struggling with COVAX (the effort).”
With no certainty as to which fires would work, governments have rushed in recent months to sign several agreements to ensure that their citizens will have at least a few Covid-19 injections. Canada, for example, has bought nearly 200 million vaccines – enough to cover its population of 38 million about five times.
Nkengasong called the idea that people in rich countries would be immunized while Africans were left without “a moral problem.”
Beyond ethics, experts note that the failure to protect people in the developing world will leave a reservoir of coronavirus that could trigger new outbreaks at any time.
Against the background of the fears that COVAX cannot offer, some developing countries are withdrawing altogether or looking for their own private offers. Earlier this month, the small Pacific island of Palau announced it was giving up the initiative and will receive donated vaccines from the US in return. Other low- and middle-income countries, including Malaysia, Peru and Bangladesh, have remained in the lead, but have recently closed their own deals with drug manufacturers such as Plan B.
Anban Pillay of the South African Ministry of Health said that joining COVAX was just a stop-gap measure before signing bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies.
Kate Elder, policy adviser on vaccines for Doctors Without Borders, said that “it seems more and more as if the ship is navigating a fair distribution of vaccines” _ and GAVI, WHO and others need to discuss how to increase vaccine production.
To this end, South Africa and India have called for it World Trade Organization to waive certain provisions governing intellectual property rights in order to facilitate the production of Covid-19 medicines and vaccines by producers in poor countries. But many rich countries are reluctant to do so.
As more Western countries authorize the vaccine, “the gap between people in rich countries who get vaccinated and the lack of any vaccines for the developing world will become quite strong,” said Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager. . “And it will only prolong the pandemic.”