The World Health Organisation has warned that the Covid pandemic will continue for a year longer than expected because the poor countries are not getting the vaccine they need.
The senior leader at the WHO Dr. Bruce Aylward said that the lack of vaccine to the poor nation meant the Covid crisis could “easily drag on deep into 2022”.
According to the collected data, less than 5% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated, compared to 40% on most other continents.
The original idea behind the COVAX was that there will be no disparity in the availability of the vaccines and that all countries would be able to acquire vaccines from its pool. But most G7 countries decided to hold back once they started making their own one-to-one deals with pharmaceutical companies.
The Vaccine disparity
The vast majority of Covid vaccines overall have been used in high-income or upper-middle-income countries. Africa accounts for just 2.6% of doses administered globally.
The group of charities, which includes Oxfam and UNAids, also criticized Canada and the UK for procuring vaccines for their own populations via COVAX, the UN-backed global program to distribute vaccines fairly.
Official figures show that earlier this year the UK received 539,370 Pfizer doses while Canada took just under a million AstraZeneca doses.
Dr. Aylward appealed to the wealthy countries to give up their places in the queue for vaccines in order that pharmaceutical companies can prioritize the lowest-income countries instead.
He said that the wealthy countries needed to “stocktake” where they were with their donation commitments made at summits such as the G7 meeting in St Ives this summer.
Aylward added, “I can tell you we’re not on track. We really need to speed it up or you know what? This pandemic is going to go on for a year longer than it needs to.”
The People’s Vaccine – an alliance of charities – has released new figures suggesting just one in seven of the doses promised by pharmaceutical companies and wealthy countries are actually reaching their destinations in poorer countries.
Oxfam’s Global Health Adviser, Rohit Malpani, acknowledged that Canada and the UK were technically entitled to get vaccines via this route having paid into the COVAX mechanism, but he said it was still “morally indefensible” given that they had both obtained millions of doses through their own bilateral agreements.
He said, “They should not have been acquiring these doses from COVAX. It’s nothing better than double-dipping and means that poorer countries which are already at the back of the queue, will end up waiting longer.”
The UK government pointed out it was one of the countries which had “kick-started” Covax last year with a donation of £548m.
The Canadian government was keen to stress that it had now ceased to use Covax vaccines and they returned the doses given by Covax in order to be redistributed for the deserving countries.
The country’s International Development Minister, Karina Gould said, “As soon as it became clear that the supply, we had secured through our bilateral deals would be sufficient for the Canadian population, we pivoted the doses which we had procured from Covax back to Covax, so they could be redistributed to developing countries.”
COVAX originally aimed to deliver a target of two billion doses of vaccines by the end of this year but so far it has shipped only 371m doses.