According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVID-19 pandemic situation is stabilizing in nations with advanced vaccination programs, but it is surging in other, less equipped areas, demanding action lest the future become a repeat of present failures.
WHO urges the distribution of 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to be distributed through the COVAX program by year’s end. The system, which WHO helps manage, was designed and implemented amid the epidemic last year and has since delivered more than 70 million doses to 126 countries worldwide since February. In WHO’s estimation, it is the largest and most complex rollout of vaccines in history, and without it, more than 25 countries wouldn’t have even received their first vaccine doses yet.
“However, the terrible surge of the virus in India has had a severe impact on COVAX’s supply in the second quarter of this year, to the point where, by the end of June, we will face a shortfall of 190 million doses,” the WHO reported. “Even though COVAX will have larger volumes available later in the year through the deals it has already secured with several manufacturers, if we do not address the current, urgent shortfall, the consequences could be catastrophic.”
So far, more than 150 million doses have been pledged to COVAX over the course of the pandemic. WHO now requests immediate, full funding for COVAX and vaccines to match so that lower-income countries can benefit and recover from the grip of COVID-19. In addition to the 2 billion doses being sought this year, it hopes to gather 1.8 billion doses for 92 lower-income economies by early next year.
Concerted action and leadership are required, both from governments and the private sector. To make it happen, Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI); Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi; Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO; and Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, have called on such entities to fund the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment with another $2 billion by June 2, 2021, to open their doses to other nations’ use, and to remove barriers that are impeding the supply chain.
“It’s understandable that some countries want to press ahead and vaccinate all of their populations,” the leaders wrote. “By donating vaccines to COVAX alongside domestic vaccination programmes, the most at-risk populations can be protected globally, which is instrumental to ending the acute phase of the pandemic, curbing the rise and threat of variants, and accelerating a return to normality.”