By Cecilia Ologunagba
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers, AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
WHO said this in a statement from its headquarters in Geneva on Thursday.
According to the statement, the COVAX Facility has now delivered life-saving vaccines to over 100 economies since making its first international delivery to Ghana on 24 February 2021.
The UN health agency stated that of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
“COVAX aims to supply vaccines to all participating economies that have requested vaccines, in the first half of 2021, despite some delays in planned deliveries for March and April,’’ it stated.
Meanwhile, in a statement, WHO Regional Office for Africa stated that less than two per cent of the 690 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to date globally have been in Africa
It stated that the percentage of the vaccines doses had been administered in Africa, where most countries received vaccines only five weeks ago and in small quantities.
“Forty-five African countries have received vaccines, 43 of them have begun vaccinations and nearly 13 million of the 31.6 million doses delivered so far have been administered.
“The pace of vaccine rollout is, however, not uniform, with 93 per cent of the doses given in 10 countries.
“Vaccine rollout preparedness, including training of health workers, prelisting priority groups and coordination has helped some countries quickly reach a large proportion of the targeted high-risk population groups such as health workers.
“The 10 countries that have vaccinated the most have used at least 65 per cent of their supplies’’.
The statement quoted Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, as saying, “Although progress is being made, many African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line.
“Limited stocks and supply bottlenecks are putting COVID-19 vaccines out of reach of many people in this region.
“Fair access to vaccines must be a reality if we are to collectively make a dent on this pandemic’’.
WHO, however, stated that once delivered, vaccine rollout in some countries had been delayed by operational and financial hurdles or logistical difficulties such as reaching remote locations.
“WHO is supporting countries to tackle the challenges by reinforcing planning and coordination, advocating more financial resources as well as setting up effective communications strategies to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.
“The delays are not only affecting vaccine delivery to priority targets but expanding vaccinations to the rest of the population, some of whom have expressed eagerness to receive the doses.
“WHO set a target to start vaccinating health workers and other priority groups in all countries in the first 100 days of 2021 ’’.
The statement further quoted Moeti, as saying, “Africa is already playing COVID-19 vaccination catch-up, and the gap is widening.
“While we acknowledge the immense burden placed by the global demand for vaccines, inequity can only worsen scarcity.
“More than a billion Africans remain on the margins of this historic march to overcome the pandemic.”
According to WHO, through the COVAX Facility, 16.6 million vaccine doses – mainly AstraZeneca – have been delivered to African countries. (NAN)