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HomeWorldLow-income Countries Have Received Just 0.2 Per Cent Of All COVID-19 Shots...

Low-income Countries Have Received Just 0.2 Per Cent Of All COVID-19 Shots Given


The vast majority of COVID-19 vaccines administered have
so far gone to wealthy nations, the World Health
Organization (WHO) reported on
Friday.

Although more than 700 million vaccine doses
have been administered globally, richer countries have
received more than 87 per cent, and low-income countries
just 0.2 per cent.

“There remains a shocking
imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines”, said
WHO chief Tedros Adhanonom
Ghebreyesus, speaking during the agency’s regular briefing
from Geneva.

“On average in high-income countries,
almost one in four people has received a vaccine. In
low-income countries, it’s one in more than 500. Let me
repeat that: one in four versus one in
500.”

Bilateral deals hurt COVAX

The global
solidarity initiative, COVAX,
has also experienced a shortage of vaccines. While the
mechanism has distributed some 38 million doses so far, it
was expected to deliver nearly 100 million by the end of
March.

“The problem is not getting vaccines out of
COVAX; the problem is getting them in”, he
said.

“We understand that some countries and
companies plan to do their own bilateral vaccine donations,
bypassing COVAX for their own political or commercial
reasons. These bilateral arrangements run the risk of
fanning the flames of vaccine inequity.”

Scaling up
solidarity

COVAX partners, who include Gavi, the
vaccine alliance, are working on several options to scale up
production to meet the goal of delivering two billion doses
by the end of the year.

Dr Seth Berkley, the Chief
Executive Officer at Gavi, highlighted the need for
continued solidarity.

“What we are now beginning to
see are supply constraints, not just of vaccines, but also
of the goods that go into making vaccines”, he
said.

COVAX is in discussions with several high-income
countries to get them to share surplus vaccine doses, he
said. It is also developing cost-sharing mechanisms so that
low income countries can buy additional doses through COVAX,
funded by multilateral development banks.

Dr Berkley
added that financing is also needed as demand for vaccines
has risen with the emergence of new COVID-19
variants.

Concern over the ‘raging inferno’ in
Brazil

WHO remains deeply concerned about what one of
its experts labelled the “raging inferno of an outbreak”
in Brazil, in response to a journalist’s question about
scaling up vaccines to address the emergency
there.

South America’s largest country has recorded
more than 340,000 deaths since the pandemic began, making it
second only to the United States.

Tedros said he has
spoken with the newly appointed health minister, and
officials at the federal level, which he hoped will “help
with moving forward in our partnership.”

Continue
prevention measures

Dr. Bruce Aylward, a WHO Senior
Adviser, described the situation in Brazil as “very, very
concerning”. Delivering more vaccines would have minimal
impact, he said, emphasizing the need to continue measures
that have proved to slow virus spread.

“Even by the
time you get vaccines into a country, by the time you get
them into people – and you’re getting them to a
relatively small proportion of the population – that will
have a small effect in limiting the risk to some people”,
he said.

“But what you’re dealing with here is a
raging inferno of an outbreak, and that requires
population-level action in the rapid identification,
isolation, quarantining, because you have to approach this
at that scale to slow this thing down.”

Dr. Maria
Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19, added that
while vaccines are a powerful tool, they alone will not end
the pandemic.

“The trajectory of this pandemic
around the world is going in the wrong direction”, she
said, referring to six consecutive weeks of increased cases
and rising deaths.

“We have tools right now that can
prevent infections and can save lives, so we need to find
reasons why measures aren’t in place…and find solutions
to actually get these in
place.”

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