By Sola Ogundipe
As several countries continue to roll out their COVID-19 vaccine campaigns, delays, reduced supplies, and increased demand for COVID-19 vaccine doses in India is potentially stalling progress in the vaccination campaigns in low-income countries.
The World Health Organisation, WHO, and other multilateral bodies aim to supply 600 million doses to Africa, enough to vaccinate at least 20 percent of the population.
According to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, 60 countries are affected by the delays in supply of the vaccine doses.
Already, supplies of doses are dwindling in a number of countries that received COVAX shipments earlier, even as health watchers say deliveries of second doses within the recommended time frame, are now in doubt.
So far, more than 38 million doses of vaccines from a variety of manufacturers have been delivered to eligible countries through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment, AMC.
However, the deliveries of the vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India, SII, to low-income countries participating in the COVAX Facility are facing delays as nearly all vaccine exports have been put on hold.
The SII is on contract to provide COVAX with Covishield – the vaccine it manufactures under license from AstraZeneca – for delivery to 64 low-income countries participating in the Gavi COVAX AMC.
About 28 million Covishield doses have been supplied to COVAX with the expectation of an additional 40 million doses to be delivered in March, and another 50 million doses in April.
Over the last two weeks, COVAX shipped less than two million doses to 92 countries in the developing world and no more than 50,000 doses to low-income countries within the past week.
With this development, several low-income countries, particularly in Africa may be unable to complete administration of their first shots as the possibility of exhausting their doses without any guarantee of replenishment in sight looms.
There is also uncertainty about whether those that have been received their first shots are guaranteed a second dose.
According to the WHO, Africa will need 1.5 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to reach 60 percent of its population to attain herd immunity, hence there should be fairness and equitable distribution of the vaccine doses.
Already, there are indications that the agency may consider speeding up its endorsement of the Sinopharm and Sinovac, Chinese-made vaccines, as well as the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. None of the jabs have been authorised by regulators in Europe or North America.
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