More than 100 countries have received Covid-19 vaccines since the COVAX distribution scheme launched in February, its organizers have said. However, 38 million delivered doses is a far cry from the two billion goal set for 2021.
Some 60 of the recipients were states with lower-income economies who were supplied with donor-funded doses, Gavi – an alliance of governments, drug makers, charities and international bodies – and the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a joint statement.
The 100 nations mark has been reached 42 days after the launch of the scheme, which Gavi and the WHO established to ensure the “equitable” distribution of coronavirus jabs around the globe. The first country to receive doses under COVAX was Ghana, on February 24.
So far, around 38 million doses from vaccine manufacturers including AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII) have been shipped to countries on six continents as part of COVAX, according to the statement.
Despite experiencing supply problems in March and April, and increased demand in vaccines in India, which produces most of the AstraZeneca jab that COVAX relies on, Gavi and the WHO vowed to ship doses to all countries participating in the scheme in the first half of 2021.
“According to its latest supply forecast, COVAX expects to deliver at least two billion doses of vaccines in 2021,” the statement read. In order to achieve this goal, the program will keep diversifying its vaccine portfolio, with new agreements to be announced “in due course,” it added.
It was “tremendously gratifying” to see so many countries receiving Covid-19 jabs through COVAX, Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said. However, he pointed out that ending the acute stage of the pandemic, which has already seen more that 133 million infected and almost 2.9 million killed around the globe, still remained “a daunting challenge.”
COVAX requires the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers to “rapidly accelerate the volume of doses,” Berkley insisted, adding that there was “no time for complacency” amid the rapid deployment of doses to tackle the pandemic.
His words were echoed by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said that “countries, producers, and the international system must come together to prioritize vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future literally depends on it.”
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