COVAX flays ‘unacceptable’ vaccine disparity between rich, poor nations

PHOTO: REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

A joint statement by COVAX, yesterday, highlighted the alarming disparity in access to COVID-19 vaccine between rich and poor nations.

COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access) is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to vaccines. It is co-convened by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, or GAVI), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The global picture of access to COVID-19 vaccines is unacceptable. Only 20% of people in low- and lower-middle-income countries have received a first dose of vaccine compared to 80% in high- and upper-middle-income countries,” COVAX said in the statement on supply forecast for 2021 and early 2022.

The disparity exists despite the fact that “COVAX has already achieved significant progress: more than $10 billion has been raised; legally-binding commitments for up to 4.5 billion doses of vaccine; 240 million doses delivered to 139 countries in just six months”.

According to the forecast, COVAX expects to have access to 1.425 billion doses of vaccine in 2021, in the most likely scenario and in the absence of urgent action by producers and high-coverage countries to prioritise COVAX. Of these doses, approximately 1.2 billion will be available for the lower income economies participating in the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

This is enough to protect 20 per cent of the population, or 40 per cent of all adults, in all 92 AMC economies with the exception of India. Over 200 million doses will be allocated to self-financing participants. The key COVAX milestone of 2 billion doses released for delivery is now expected to be reached in the first quarter of 2022.

THIS came as a new report by Global Fund, yesterday, showed that the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the fight against Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in 2020.

It showed that while some progress was made, key programmatic results declined for the first time in the history of the Fund.

Executive Director of Global Fund, Peter Sands, said: “To mark our 20th anniversary, we had hoped to focus this year’s Results Report on the extraordinary stories of courage and resilience that made possible the progress we have achieved against HIV, TB and malaria over the last two decades. But the 2020 numbers force a different focus. They confirm what we feared might happen when COVID-19 struck.”

The report revealed the catastrophic impact the pandemic had on the fight against TB worldwide. In 2020, the number of people treated for drug-resistant TB in countries where the Global Fund invests dropped by a staggering 19 per cent, with those on treatment for extensively drug-resistant TB registering an even bigger drop of 37 per cent. The number of HIV-positive TB patients on antiretroviral treatment as well as TB treatment dropped by 16 per cent.

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