COVAX Vaccine Equitable Sharing Mechanism Suffers Delays Due To India’s Export Blockade

Countries that will receive COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX mechanism, which seeks to ensure a fair share in full global competition for the scarce doses available, may experience delays in supplying volumes manufactured in India and South Korea, according to Reuters and has confirmed elDiario.es.

On the one hand, COVAX is dealing with difficulties in exporting AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India and shipped to impoverished countries that receive doses funded through the mechanism.

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“Delays in granting new export licenses for COVID-19 vaccine doses produced by the Serum Institute of India are due to increased demand for virus vaccines in India,” explains Unicef, one of the program partners, led by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), the Coalition for Innovation in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The organization has not detailed how much the volume of doses that may be affected by these delays. The Indian company, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has a contract to supply COVAX with its version of the AstraZeneca preparation, known as COVISHIELD.

Unicef ​​says that COVAX “is in talks with the Government of India to guarantee deliveries as soon as possible.” “The Serum Institute has promised that, together with the supply in India, it will prioritize the COVAX multilateral response for equitable distribution.”

This Wednesday, Reuters reported that India has suspended temporarily all substantial exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute to meet domestic demand as infections in the country rise sharply. In statements collected by the Financial times, the Serum Institute says its shipments would be affected and that the measures could last up to “two or three months.”

The Indian manufacturer has already delayed shipments of the AstraZeneca preparation to other countries such as Brazil, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Also to the United Kingdom, where the authorities are in contact with New Delhi to obta in its second batch of five million doses ordered from the manufacturer.

“Let’s not forget that ‘India has exported 60 million vaccines to countries around the world, more than it has given to its own people.’ Export restrictions from high-income countries opened the door for others to follow, including India, “Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Institute for Global Health at Duke University, said on Twitter.

In addition, Unicef ​​and Gavi confirm that participating countries have been made aware that shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in SkBio, South Korea, will be lower than expected this month. “The COVAX mechanism has informed participants with allocated volumes of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine produced in South Korea that the volume of shipments will be lower than expected in March.”

“This is in line with the difficulties in the field of distribution at a global level, and is due to the obstacles the company encounters in increasing supply and optimizing production processes for these first shipments,” say both organizations. . AstraZeneca, they continue, has informed COVAX that “it will compensate the amounts delayed during April and May.”

While most of the doses supplied to low-income countries are manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, AstraZeneca, through SK Bio, manufactures doses for the middle- and high-income economies, Gavi explains.

Despite the initial idea that COVAX was the default purchasing mechanism, rich countries have used the system to request very small amounts or mainly to make financial donations. Then, they planned their own supply through direct contracts with pharmaceutical companies, which means that COVAX has to compete with these bilateral agreements to get doses manufactured and it is considered that it has ended up hurting their purchasing power.

Until now, COVAX, which began distributing doses at the end of February, has delivered more than 31 million vaccines to 57 participants, according to Gavi data as of March 22.

According to its forecasts for the first round of distribution (until May 2021), COVAX’s intention was to distribute 237 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to 142 participants. An exceptional distribution of 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the first quarter of the year was announced in early February. However, Gavi has insisted that the schedule depends on several factors, one of them the availability of supply.

The volumes expected to deliver COVAX, however, are very low when compared with the coverage figures of the countries that have already started their vaccination campaigns. The goal before these delays was to achieve at least 3% coverage of the population in all countries in the first half of the year.

Global inequality in access continues to be evident. Worldwide, about 459 million doses of vaccines have been administered, but 76% of them are found in just 10 countries.

“The success of COVAX is in jeopardy due to the demands that some high- and upper-middle-income countries place on the global supply of vaccines. This is not only a moral atrocity, it is also economically and epidemiologically counterproductive,” the past insisted Tuesday Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general.

“Equity in vaccines is not an act of charity; it is the best and fastest way to control the pandemic globally, and to restart the global economy. Equity in vaccines interests all nations,” he said. WHO has repeatedly called for increased manufacturing as well as (rich countries) to donate vaccines to redistribute doses through COVAX.

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