Sunday, May 22

Poor countries have had to turn down millions of short-lived vaccine doses

Rich countries have given millions of vaccine doses to poor countries during the pandemic, but many of them have had too short a shelf life to be used.

A funeral home is handing out leaflets in Soweto, South Africa, to raise awareness about coronary heart disease. The slogan is: “It is not urgent for us to see you”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has sharply criticized what is perceived as an immoral and very unfair distribution of vaccines between rich and poor countries.

In December alone, poor countries had to say no to around 100 million doses of coronary vaccine as they have had too short a shelf life after being hoarded in richer countries.

While rich countries have had enough money and power to secure enough vaccines to give the entire population one, two and three bites, and sometimes four, the poor have in several cases had to make do with vaccine doses that have been left over. , and which is about to go out of date.

Had to discard 1 million doses

In December, revealing photos came from Nigeria showing the many vaccines that the country has had to destroy. Over one million AstraZeneca doses were burned because the country did not have time to use them while they were still durable.

– The rich countries hoarded the vaccines and then offered them for donation at the time they were about to expire, said one of the country’s health leaders, Faisal Shuaib, before Christmas.

Africa’s most populous country had then fully vaccinated four million people – less than 3 percent of the adult population. At the same time, the authorities announced an increase in new cases of infection of 500 percent within two weeks.

Elderly people are waiting to retire in Harare, Zimbabwe in December. Here, the coronavirus threatens millions of people at the same time as the pandemic has already hit the country’s economy hard. A number of African countries are experiencing the same situation. Very few have been vaccinated.

– Large bottleneck

The World Children’s Fund Unicef ​​is responsible for sending aircraft deliveries of vaccines to poor countries under the auspices of the international vaccine collaboration Covax.

– In December, we had almost 100 million doses that were rejected due to the countries’ capacity, Unicef’s delivery director Etleva Kadilli recently told EU parliamentarians.

– Most rejections are due to the product’s durability. The short shelf life really creates a big bottleneck for countries that are planning their vaccination programs, she adds.

– Before we have better durability, this will be where the shoe hits the countries, especially when countries want to reach out to inhabitants in areas that are difficult to access.

EU donations have funded a third of the doses delivered through the Covax program so far.

In October and November, 15 million doses from the EU were rejected, of which 75 percent were from Astra Zeneca with a shelf life of less than ten weeks after arrival.

Asks for postponement

According to Kadilli, several countries have requested that deliveries be postponed until after March. Then they may have a better opportunity to handle the challenge that the vaccines must be kept cool.

Many countries come back and ask for deliveries to be split up, they want to postpone doses until the next quarter, according to the WHO expert.

The Covax collaboration was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2020. Although it has not worked as expected, one of the partners, the Gavi Foundation, recently announced that an important milestone has been reached – the number of doses delivered has reached 1 billion. It happened when a plane landed in Kigali, Rwanda on January 15, less than a year after the first dose was delivered to Ghana in February last year.

Funeral cars drive through Soweto as part of a vaccination campaign in the South African city in December.

Far from the goal

All countries in the world have been able to order vaccines via Covax, but low-income countries have stopped paying for them.

Although 1 billion doses may sound impressive, it is far from the goal, which was to deliver 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. This is because Covax has had to buy vaccines in the same market as everyone else, and because rich countries have been willing to pay more and at the same time stockpiled vaccine doses.

In a speech in early January, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that although 9.4 billion doses have been distributed around the world, 85 percent of Africa’s population has not yet received a single bite.

The statistics show that in high-income countries, 149 doses per 100 inhabitants, while in low-income countries the ratio is less than 9 doses per. 100 inhabitants.

– It’s not just a moral shame. It costs lives, is the WHO chief’s urgent message.

Even more skewed?

The WHO stated at Christmas that 92 of the 194 member countries have not managed to vaccinate 40 percent of the population by the end of 2021. Now the goal is for all countries in the world to have vaccinated 70 percent of their inhabitants by the middle of 2022.

But health experts warn that the skewed vaccine distribution will be even more skewed as the omicron variant has led many countries to try to secure enough doses to give both a third and fourth sting.

– We can not afford to let omicron and the increased demand for refreshment doses ruin our progress, writes Gavi’s CEO Seth Berkley on Twitter.

– If the world stands together to ensure that adults in low-income countries reach the same level of immunity as in high-income countries, then we will be able to prevent between 940,000 and 1.27 million deaths next year, she states.

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