NEW DELHI: With Americans, British and Canadians carrying sleeves to get vaccines against coronavirus, the path out of the pandemic now seems clear to many in the West, even if the development 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 that the whole world has access to Covid-19 vaccines, ensured only a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year, has not yet confirmed any actual agreements to send vaccines. and there is no money.
The virus, which has killed more than 1.6 million people, has exposed major injustices between countries, as fragile health systems and smaller economies have often been hit harder. COVAX was created by the World Health Organization, an alliance on vaccines GAVI and CEPI, a global coalition to fight epidemics, to prevent the international mass exodus for vaccines that has accompanied past outbreaks and would reinforce those imbalances.
But now some experts say the chances that coronavirus shots will be shared fairly between rich nations and the rest are fading quickly. With currently limited vaccine supplies, developed countries, some of which have helped fund the research with taxpayer money, are under extreme pressure to protect their own populations and buy shots. Meanwhile, some poorer countries that have joined the initiative are looking for alternatives for fears that it will not be implemented.
“It’s simple math,” he said Arnaud Bernaert, head of global health at the World Economic Forum. Of the approximately 12 billion doses the pharmaceutical industry is expected to produce next year, about 9 billion shots are already reserved by rich countries. “COVAX has not secured enough doses, and the way the situation may develop is that they will probably only receive these doses quite late.”
To date, the only confirmed, legally binding agreement of COVAX concerns up to 200 million doses, although that includes the possibility of ordering that number of additional doses several times, said James Fulker, a representative of GAVI. It has agreements for another 500 million vaccines, but those are not legally required.
The 200 million doses will come from the Serum Institute of India, the company that is likely to make much of the coronavirus shots destined for the developing world. CEO Adar Poonawalla says it has a confirmed order for 100 million doses each of a vaccine developed by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca and one from Novovax.
“We have nothing beyond that in writing,” he told The Associated Press. “If they want more, they’ll have to make more orders.”
He said the lack of commitment of COVAX will mean a much longer wait for people in developing countries. Poonawalla also noted that his company’s first priority would be shooting for India, which has suggested it wants at least 300 million vaccines. Surely India could not take all of these at once, but a big order could delay the distribution of vaccines to other parts of the developing world, Poonawalla said.
Asked on Tuesday why the Serum Institute was hired just to produce 200 million vaccines against COVAX, Dr Bruce Aylward of WHO said they would return to the company “to make sure they have the assurances they need.” He said the Serum. Institute was “absolutely crucial to the delivery of many vaccines.”
It may further slow down the process that neither the AstraZeneca vaccine nor the Novovax have been authorized by any regulatory agency _ and any injection distributed by COVAX will likely need WHO approval. COVAX has no supplies of the two vaccines that appear to be most effective to date _ the Pfizer-BioNTech shot and the Modern. Britain has already started giving the Pfizer vaccine, and United States and Canada launches it this week. Some Gulf countries have also authorized it.
However GAVI said they “aim to start launching safe and effective vaccines to COVAX (member countries) on a large scale within the first and second quarters of the new year.”
Even with vaccines in hand, developments will take many months in rich countries, and many developers face serious logistical challenges that will add delays, noted Dr. Gagandeep Kang, an infectious disease expert at Christian Medical College at Vellore in the southern region. Cheap.
Senior officials at the WHO have privately acknowledged that attempts to fairly allocate a vaccine through the initiative are lacking, despite publicly praising its success.
“The whole call for global solidarity has largely been lost,” said Dr Katherine O’Brien, head of vaccines at WHO, during a recent internal discussion, the registration of which was obtained by AP.
Asked to clarify her remarks, O’Brien said in an email that “every country should have access to Covid-19 vaccines as soon as possible.”
In addition to COVAX’s difficulties, O’Brien noted during a news conference this month that there is still $ 5 billion left to buy the doses it plans to get next year.
According to a report released by GAVI ahead of a meeting this week, the alliance itself concluded that the risk of COVAX failing is “very high,” saying it was “established in record time and must navigate untouched territory.”
John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, criticized Western countries for buying the global vaccine supply “more than their needs, while we in Africa are still struggling with the COVAX (effort).”
With no certainty as to which shots will work, governments have been in a hurry in recent months to sign multiple agreements to ensure their citizens will have at least some 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 will be immune while Africans go without a “moral problem.”
In addition to ethics, experts note that failure to protect people in the developing world will leave a reservoir of coronavirus that could cause new outbreaks at any time.
Amid fears that COVAX cannot deliver, some developing countries are completely out or seeking their own private deals. Earlier this month, the tiny Pacific island nation of Palau announced it was abandoning the initiative and will instead donate vaccines from the United States. Other low- and middle-income countries, including Malaysia, Peru, and Bangladesh, have remained in the initiative but have also recently signed their own agreements with drug addicts such as Plan B.
Anban Pillay of the South African Ministry of Health said joining COVAX was just a stopping resource before signing bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies.
Kate Elder, a vaccine advisor at Doctors Without Borders, said that “more and more it seems the ship was traveling through fair vaccine distribution” _ and GAVI, WHO and others need to discuss how to increase vaccine manufacturing.
To that end, South Africa and India have asked the World Trade Organization waive any provisions regulating intellectual property rights to make it easier for manufacturers in poor countries to produce Covid-19 drugs and vaccines. But many rich countries are reluctant to do so.
As more countries in the West authorize the vaccine, “the gap between vaccinating people in rich countries and the lack of vaccines for the developing world will become quite severe,” said Anna Marriott, health policy manager at Oxfam. “And it will only prolong the pandemic.”