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COVAX vaccines reach more than 100 countries, despite supply hits

GENEVA: The COVAX vaccine facility has delivered nearly 38.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 100 countries and economies across six continents as of Thursday, six weeks after it began to roll out supplies, a statement said.

Despite being hit by reduced supply availability in March and April, and higher demand in India where much of its main jab AstraZeneca is made, it expects to deliver doses to all economies that have requested them in the first half of 2021, the GAVI vaccine alliance and World Health Organization said.

“According to its latest supply forecast, COVAX expects to deliver at least 2 billion doses of vaccines in 2021,” it said.

Its portfolio, currently relying on AstraZeneca and the Pfizer and BioNTech shots, would be diversified.

“COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “If we are going to realize this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritize vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”

“This is a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19. Faced with the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants, global access to vaccines is fundamentally important to reduce the prevalence of the disease, slow down viral mutation, and hasten the end of the pandemic,” said Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

“The extraordinary scientific achievements of the last year must now be matched by an unprecedented effort to protect the most vulnerable, so the global community must remain firmly focused on reducing the equity gap in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.”

“In just a month and a half, the ambition of granting countries access to COVID vaccines is becoming a reality, thanks to the outstanding work of our partners in the COVAX Facility,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

“However, this is no time to celebrate; it is time to accelerate. With variants emerging all over the world, we need to speed up global rollout. To do this, we need governments, along with other partners, to take necessary steps to increase supply, including by simplifying barriers to intellectual property rights, eliminating direct and indirect measures that restrict exports of COVID-19 vaccines, and donating excess vaccine doses as quickly as possible.”

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