Covid-19 vaccine shortages hit global supply initiative, halting rollouts

So far, Covax has shipped only 88 mn doses — about as many as the no. of doses administered in California, Texas and New York
A string of nations across Africa, Asia and other regions have run out of Covid-19 vaccines or are on the brink of doing so, months after receiving first shipments from a global program meant to equitably distribute the shots.

When the supplies arrived in developing countries earlier this year through the Covax effort, they were seen as an important step in narrowing a glaring gap in global access. Today, many of those same countries are facing vaccine shortages and are unsure when they will receive donations from wealthy countries.

A World Health Organization adviser on Monday said that of 80 lower-income countries that have received vaccines through the programme, about 40 are either out of vaccines or on the verge. 

“Well over half of countries have run out of stock and are calling for additional vaccine,” the adviser, Bruce Aylward, told reporters. “But in reality it's probably much higher."

In the race to end the pandemic, it’s vaccine against virus. Slowdowns in inoculation programs can leave room for problematic new variants to emerge that could reignite infection counts or put already vaccinated people back at risk. Countries without rich health budgets can be forced onto the more-expensive private market. And if supplies don’t get restocked, vulnerable populations of older people and health workers can be left only partially vaccinated while awaiting the delivery of second doses.

Seven countries in Africa, including Ivory Coast, Gambia and Kenya, have used all of their Covax stocks, according to the WHO, while others in Asia, Latin America and beyond are at risk of exhausting their supplies. In response, many are slowing or halting vaccine programs while they await new shipments or look for alternate sources.

Covax was set up last year to ensure equitable access to vaccines around the globe, and was organized by the vaccine-access nonprofit Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, another group known as CEPI, or the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the WHO. It established a global purchasing and distribution pool, particularly for less-wealthy nations that were unable to strike large pre-purchase deals or manufacture their own vaccines.

Its goal is to deliver 1.8 billion doses to more than 90 lower-income economies by early 2022. So far, it has shipped only 88 million — about as many as the number of doses already administered in the US states of California, Texas and New York, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. 

Biden plans to ship 55 mn shots

President Joe Biden is delaying a target date for overseas shipments of 80 million doses of coronavirus vaccines donated by the US, with millions of shots produced by AstraZeneca still in a safety review.Biden’s White House on Monday announced a list of countries that would receive 55 million doses, after previously detailing the first tranche of 25 million. In total, three-quarters of the 80 million will be sent through Covax, a World Health Organization-backed vaccine procurement effort.  Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi offers jabs for tourists

Abu Dhabi is offering coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and China’s Sinopharm to tourists, a move that may help attract visitors from countries that have supply constrains.

The vaccines are only available for holders of a visa issued by Abu Dhabi or holders of passports eligible for visa on arrival, according to the sheikhdom’s health care provider Seha’s phone application. The United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is a part, has one of the fastest Covid-19 vaccine rollouts in the world.  Bloomberg

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