Tampa Bay Times

Vaccines for poor countries delayed

- BY LORI HINNANT AND MARIA CHENG

LONDON — As many as 60 countries, including some of the world’s poorest, might be stalled at the first shots of their coronaviru­s vaccinatio­ns because nearly all deliveries through the global program intended to help them are blocked until as late as June.

COVAX, the global initiative to provide vaccines to countries lacking the clout to negotiate for scarce supplies on their own, has in the past week shipped more than 25,000 doses to low-income countries only twice on any given day. Deliveries have all but halted since Monday.

During the past two weeks, according to data compiled daily by UNICEF, fewer than 2 million COVAX doses in total were cleared for shipment to 92 countries in the developing world — the same amount injected in Britain alone.

On Friday, the head of the World Health Organizati­on slammed the “shocking imbalance” in global COVID-19 vaccinatio­n. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus said that while one in four people in rich countries had received a vaccine, only one in 500 people in poorer countries had gotten a dose.

The vaccine shortage stems mostly from India’s decision to stop exporting vaccines from its Serum Institute factory, which produces the overwhelmi­ng majority of the AstraZenec­a doses that COVAX counted on to supply around a third of the global population at a time coronaviru­s is spiking worldwide.

COVAX will only ship vaccines cleared by WHO, and countries are increasing­ly impatient.

Supplies are dwindling in some of the first countries to receive COVAX shipments, and the expected delivery of second doses in the 12-week window currently recommende­d is now in doubt. In a statement, the vaccine alliance known as GAVI told the Associated Press that 60 countries are affected by the delays.

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