WHO warns of 'failure' unless rich countries speed up Covid-19 vaccine sharing

GENEVA (REUTERS) – Wealthy countries need to give more Covid-19 vaccines and follow the United States in making doses available immediately to cover a 200 million dose gap caused by Indian supply disruptions and manufacturing delays, a WHO senior adviser said on Friday (June 4).

Warning of a “two-track recovery”, the World Health Organisation is urging wealthy countries to donate their surplus doses to poorer countries instead of giving them to less vulnerable groups, such as children. They have so far donated 150 million doses via the Covax sharing scheme.

However, Dr Bruce Aylward said on Friday that only a small portion of those doses will be available in the short term in June, July and August, when they can make a difference in slowing the pace of infections in the global pandemic.

“We are going to need twice that much and it’s got to be brought forward,” he said, referring to the size of wealthy country donations so far as Group of Seven health ministers meet in Oxford.

“We don’t have enough confirmed doses from enough countries early enough to get the world on track to get out of this,” he said. “We are setting up for failure if we don’t get early doses.”

He praised a US plan announced on Thursday to quickly share 25 million doses, and encouraged other wealthy countries to follow suit.

Dr Aylward estimated that Indian vaccine export disruptions and delays in getting other vaccines online meant that the Covax sharing scheme had a gap of around 200 million doses.

India’s Serum Institute has diverted AstraZeneca supplies to the domestic market amid a devastating second wave in India and is expected to lift those restrictions in the fourth quarter when other products earmarked for Covax are also due online.

“All of that is going to arrive at the same time,” said Dr Aylward.

Even after a summit this week that secured an additional US$2.4 billion (S$3.2 billion) in pledges, a nearly US$17 billion funding gap for the WHO’s “ACT Accelerator” to back Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics remains, he said.