Several countries who are seeking their own doses of COVID-19 vaccine are making special arrangements with pharmaceutical companies that threaten the global COVAX program’s supply to poor and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization said on Friday ( WHO).
“Today, some countries are still pursuing agreements that compromise the supply of COVAX. Without a doubt, ”WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward said in a briefing.
WHO has long called on rich countries to ensure that vaccines are shared fairly. The global organization is a leader in COVAX, a program that aims to deliver 1.3 billion doses of vaccine this year to poor and middle-income countries. However, so far COVAX has had a slow rollout.
“We cannot beat COVID without vaccine equity. Our world will not recover quickly enough without equity in vaccines, that is clear, ”said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“We have made great progress. But this progress is fragile. We need to speed up the supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and we cannot do it if some countries continue to approach manufacturers who produce vaccines that COVAX relies on. ”
“These actions are undermining COVAX and depriving health workers and vulnerable people around the world of life-saving vaccines.
Separately, the WHO has said Nigeria is expecting its first four million doses of coronavirus vaccine next week via COVAX.
Walter Kazadi Mulombo, head of the WHO mission in Nigeria, told a video linkbriefing that Nigeria expected 14 million doses in total.
Chikwe Ihekweazu, director general of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), said the situation in Nigeria was much better than was widely predicted at the start of the pandemic.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with some 200 million people, has so far reported fewer than 1,900 deaths from COVID-19.
“The whole world expected the African continent, and Nigeria, with our social and economic realities, to fundamentally collapse,” Ihekweazu said during the briefing.
He also referred to the results of seroprevalence studies, released on Monday, which suggested that 23% of people in Lagos state – around four million people – could have had COVID-19 in October.
He said studies in four Nigerian states had shown serious illnesses to appear rarer than feared, possibly due in part to the young average age of the population.
“Bringing the vaccine into Nigeria will serve the continent well, serve the world well,” he said.
Nigeria plans to vaccinate 40% of the population this year and 30% more in 2022.
Ihekweazu said authorities recognized the need for equity in access to vaccines and were determined to pursue multilateral agreements.
“We will not seek bilateral agreements,” said Ihekweazu.
“We will work multilaterally with WHO, with COVAX with the African Union (AU) to make sure that when we get vaccines into Nigeria, the same thing will happen… across the continent,” he said.