AFRICA – Covax has slashed its forecasts for Covid-19 vaccine deliveries to the developing world by about 25 per cent this year after India’s export ban, manufacturing problems and delays in approvals of new shots knocked the programme off track. 

Deliveries under the scheme to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income countries are ramping up, with 1.1bn doses set to be available for the rest of the year.

However, the World Health Organization-backed programme will fall short of its target of delivering 2 billion vaccines this year, with a total of 1.4 billion shots. Some 200 million of the doses are reserved for so-called “self-financing” countries with higher-income populations.

Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the WHO, said there were still about 10,000 deaths a day from Covid-19 that she called “entirely preventable” if vaccines were shared more equally. 

She said there would be enough supplies to vaccinate the world’s healthcare workers and elderly by the end of September and bring down mortality significantly. 

I am very concerned that some countries are talking about boosters when there isn’t a lot of evidence that vaccines are failing to protect people from severe disease,” she said.

Analysis by data firm Airfinity released earlier this week found equitable redistribution of vaccine doses could be stepped up, as manufacturing output has steadily increased and now stands at 1.5-billion doses a month.

It found that even if governments in rich countries expanded coverage to teenagers and gave booster shots to vulnerable groups, there would still be 1.2-billion doses available for redistribution this year alone, and it would be possible to vaccinate the whole adult population by June 2022.

Africa, the largest beneficiary of the COVAX facility has received 143 million vaccines, and 39 million people, or roughly three per cent of the continent’s population, are fully inoculated. In comparison, the figure is 52 per cent in the United States and 57 per cent in the European Union.

The inequity is deeply disturbing. Just two per cent of the over five billion doses given globally have been administered in Africa. Yet recent rises in vaccine shipments and commitments shows that a fairer, more just global distribution of vaccines looks possible,” said Dr. Moeti. 

Eighty percent of countries in the continent are off track on meeting the global target set in May by the World Health Assembly, if the current rate of vaccine deliveries and inoculations continues, the World Health Organization reported.

WHO has urged countries to continue to address operational gaps and continually improve, adapt and refine their vaccination campaigns.  

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