BELGIUM – The COVAX global vaccine-sharing programme has delivered 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, one of the organizations which manages it said.

Supplies to poorer countries have long been severely limited due to a lack of vaccines, as wealthier countries secured the majority of the doses initially available beginning in December 2020.

However, shipments have increased exponentially in the last quarter, allowing COVAX to reach the milestone of 1 billion doses shipped to 144 countries, according to Gavi, which co-leads the program with the World Health Organization (WHO).

COVAX was launched in 2020 with the goal of delivering 2 billion doses by the end of 2021, but it was slowed by wealthy states’ initial hoarding of limited shots, export restrictions, and frequent organizational changes.

In February 2021, the program began delivering vaccine doses. Despite COVAX’s initial plans to supply only vaccines procured directly by the program with a budget of more than US$10 billion in donor funds, about one-third has been donated by wealthy nations.

The shift in strategy has resulted in delays, as donors have frequently requested that doses be sent to countries of their choosing.

Vaccine inequity persists, despite a recent surge in deliveries. According to the most recent WHO data, 67 percent of the population in richer countries has been fully vaccinated, compared to only 5 percent in poorer countries. Over 40% of the world’s population has yet to receive their first dose.

Gavi, a vaccine alliance that co-manages COVAX, is seeking additional funding to meet the WHO’s goal of vaccinating 70% of the population in poorer countries by July.

COVAX is currently collaborating with governments, manufacturers, and partners to ensure that when countries receive vaccines, they are able to get them to people as soon as possible.

The work that has gone into this (1 billion) milestone is only a reminder of the work that remains,” the UN’s health agency underscored.

Citizens should demand that governments and pharmaceutical companies share health tools globally to “bring an end to the death and destruction cycles of this pandemic, limit new variants, and drive a global economic recovery,” they added, with updated vaccines in the pipeline.

COVAX is one of three pillars of the WHO Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in response to the pandemic in April 2020.

The ACT Accelerator is a game-changing global collaboration that aims to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

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