Vaccine Shortage in Poor Countries Confirmed by WHO
June 28, 2021
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by Arabella Seebaluck

The WHO has highlighted the disparity in vaccine distribution across the world saying that poorer countries are running out of vaccines. The vast majority of the world’s Covid-19 vaccine supply. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “over 87% (of the 700 million vaccine doses) have gone to high-income or upper- and middle-income countries, while low-income countries have received just 0.2%. There remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines.”

At a WHO briefing in Geneva, Switzerland last week, WHO senior adviser Dr Bruce Aylward said, If we look at what we’re hearing from countries on a day-to-day basis, well over half of countries have run out of stock and are calling for additional vaccine. But in reality it’s probably much higher”

What is the WHO doing about this?

The WHO has partnered with CEPI and Gavi to co-lead COVAX. They have described COVAX as ‘COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator’
It’s been developed to help poorer countries gain access to vaccines and the tools and equipment required to manufacture the vaccines. Its aim as described on its official website is to offer

  • Doses for at least 20% of countries’ populations
  • Diverse and actively managed portfolio of vaccines
  • Vaccines delivered as soon as they are available
  • End the acute phase of the pandemic
  • Rebuild economies

Its distributing partner is UNICEF. Currently, under COVAX, 126 countries have received over 70 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine and 35 countries have received their first dose.

However, in May, the organisation released a statement saying that “The terrible surge of the virus in India has had a severe impact on COVAX’s supply in the second quarter of this year, to the point where by the end of June we will face a shortfall of 190 million doses.”

While the situation is slowly stabilising in India, the vaccine rate is is quite low at 3.6% as per the latest reports. Africa is seeing a third wave of infections and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for an end to vaccine hoarding by richer countries. The South African President has been calling out wealthier countries for vaccine hoarding and made a pointed statement in May saying, “The pandemic has highlighted the need for partnership but demonstrated the damaging effect of unilateralism and the withholding of access to resources, life-saving resources”

Wealthier nations hoarding and promise to help

Claims of rich countries hoarding vaccines began as soon as there was soon about vaccines being approved for emergency news. The People’s Vaccine Alliance said that rich countries, which are about 14% of the world, have bought about 53% of the most promising vaccines. This meant that most countries will be able to vaccinate their population three times. In May, EU came under heavy criticism after announcing they will not be sending any vaccine to poorer countries.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leye had said “There is quite a bit of pressure on member states to obtain the vaccine for themselves. I can’t explain to European citizens why we are exporting millions of vaccine doses to countries that are producing vaccines themselves and aren’t sending us anything back”

The EU had also set up special contract rules to control and limit vaccine exports. Manufacturers under contract to supply vaccines to EU member states have to declare if they intend to export doses outside the Union.

Now with better vaccine numbers, wealthier countries are finally feeling comfortable helping out others. US President Joe Biden recently announced the US will be sending 25 million vaccine doses to India.

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