WHO targets 30 percent of COVID strikes needed in Africa by February

WHO and its partners hope to provide Africa with around 30 percent of vaccines by February.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners have said they hope to provide Africa with about 30 percent of the COVID-19 vaccines the continent needs by February, falling short of the 60 percent vaccination coverage target that African leaders had waited this year. .

Of the 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered worldwide so far, only 2 percent have been to Africa.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday called the huge disparity in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries a “solvable problem” and urged pharmaceutical companies to prioritize the UN-backed COVAX initiative. , which is designed to share vaccines globally and provide injections at no cost to lower-income countries.

The African Union accused manufacturers of COVID-19 injections of denying African countries a fair chance to buy them, and urged manufacturing countries, in particular India, to lift restrictions on the export of vaccines and their components.

“Those manufacturers know very well that they never gave us adequate access,” Strive Masiyiwa, AU Special Envoy for COVID-19, told a WHO briefing from Geneva. “We could have handled this very differently.”

But the companies that make the vaccines, including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, have shown no signs that they are eager to change their current tactics, which involve appealing to rich countries and their regulators to authorize the booster injections.

A person holds a placard as supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) march to demand the deployment of vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Pretoria, South Africa, June 25, 2021 [File: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

Masiyiwa emphasized that, with the goal of vaccinating 60 percent of its population, the African Union and its partners hoped to purchase half of the necessary doses, while half were expected to come as donations through the COVAX program, supported by WHO and GAVI global. vaccine alliance.

“We want access to the purchase,” he said.

GAVI CEO Seth Berkley said his organization had supplies from India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing center, at the start of the outbreak, but had not received doses from India since March, when India imposed restrictions. to export.

Masiyiwa added: “Suppliers in the last eight to nine months have made it clear that the biggest challenge they face is export restrictions.”

‘Sharing vaccines is good’

He urged the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to start working on a pandemic preparedness reserve fund to help poorer nations buy vaccines in the future, rather than having to rely on an exchange facility like COVAX. , which has so far managed to provide only 260 million. dose.

“Vaccine sharing is good, but we shouldn’t have to rely on vaccine sharing, especially when we can sit at the table with the structures in place and say we want to buy too,” he said.

He reiterated the demand for patent exemptions on vaccines and said Africa wanted to establish its own manufacturing capacity.

Those manufacturers know very well that they never gave us adequate access, ”said Strive Masiyiwa. [File: Rodger Bosch/AFP]

Tedros called last week for a “moratorium” on the use of boosters in healthy populations until the end of the year. Countries like Israel, France and Germany have already started dispensing third doses to certain groups.

In the United States, the FDA will publicly debate the booster issue this week. In an opinion piece on Monday, two senior FDA officials and senior WHO scientists wrote in The Lancet that the average person does not need a booster shot.

To date, less than 4 percent of Africans have been fully immunized, and the majority of vaccine doses administered worldwide have been administered in just 10 wealthy countries.

COVAX is expected to fall nearly 30 percent short of its previous target of two billion shots this year. GAVI and the WHO have blamed the shortfall on a number of factors, including export restrictions from the Serum Institute of India (SII).


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