COUNTRIES seeking their own vaccine doses are making deals with drug companies that threaten the supply for the global COVAX programme for poor and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization has warned.

“Now countries are still pursuing deals that will compromise the COVAX supply,” WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward told a briefing. “Without a doubt.”

The World Health Organization has long called upon rich countries to ensure that vaccines are shared equitably. It is one of the leaders of COVAX, a programme to supply hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to poor and middle-income countries. But so far, COVAX has had a slow rollout.

“We can’t beat COVID without vaccine equity. Our world will not recover fast enough without vaccine equity, this is clear,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“We have made great progress. But that progress is fragile. We need to accelerate the supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and we cannot do that if some countries continue to approach manufacturers who are producing vaccines that COVAX is counting on.”

“These actions undermine COVAX and deprive health workers and vulnerable people around the world of life-saving vaccines.”

He also called for countries to waive intellectual property rules, to allow other countries to make vaccines more quickly.

“If not now, when?

Source - The African Mirror

INDIA has made its first shipment of a locally made COVID-19 shot to the WHO-backed equitable vaccine distribution network COVAX, the government said.

“Fulfilling our commitment to help the world with COVID-19 vaccines, supplies of Made-in-India vaccine commence today for Africa under COVAX facility,” Anurag Srivastava, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, said on Twitter.

The World Health Organization this month paved the way for the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine’s global roll-out by approving emergency use of the product produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine maker, and SK Bioscience of South Korea.

SII will also soon start producing the Novavax vaccine mainly for poor and middle-income countries.

India, the world’s biggest maker of vaccines, has shipped over 17 million vaccine doses to more than two dozen countries – including around 6 million as gifts to partners such as Bangladesh and Nepal. For its own campaign, New Delhi has so far only ordered 31 million doses.

– Thomson Reuters Foundation

OMAN’S supreme committee for dealing with COVID-19 said yesterday it was suspending entry for arrivals from Sudan, Lebanon, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Ethiopia, Guinea, Sierra Leone for 15 days from February 25, state media reported.

The decision also includes arrivals from elsewhere if they have passed through any of those countries in the 14 days prior to applying to enter the sultanate. Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are exempt from the suspension, the committee said.

Source – Thomson Reuters Foundation

THE World Health Organization has agreed on a no-fault compensation plan for claims of serious side effects in people in 92 poorer countries due to get COVID-19 vaccines via the COVAX sharing scheme, resolving a big concern among recipient governments.

The programme, which the WHO said was the first and only vaccine injury compensation mechanism operating on an international scale, will offer eligible people “a fast, fair, robust and transparent process”, the WHO said in a statement.

“By providing a no-fault lump-sum compensation in full and final settlement of any claims, the COVAX programme aims to significantly reduce the need for recourse to the law courts, a potentially lengthy and costly process,” the statement said.

Questions of how compensation claims would be handled in the event of any serious COVID-19 vaccine side effects, which are likely to be very rare, had been a worry for countries due to get COVID-19 shots via the COVAX plan.

Countries funding their own COVID-19 vaccine procurement also plan their own liability programmes.

The WHO-agreed plan, which has been under discussion for several months, is designed to cover serious side effects linked to any COVAX-distributed vaccines until June 30, 2022, to COVAX’s Advance Market Commitment-eligible economies – a group of 92 poorer states which includes most African and Southeast Asian countries.

The programme will be financed initially from donor funding to the AMC as an extra charge on all doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed through COVAX. Applications can be made via a portal at www.covaxclaims.com from March 31, 2021, the WHO said.

Seth Berkley, chief executive of the GAVI vaccine alliance which co-leads COVAX, said the agreement on the compensation fund was “a massive boost” for COVAX, which aims to secure equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

“It helps those in countries who might have such effects, manufacturers to roll out vaccines to countries faster, and is a key benefit for lower-income governments procuring vaccines through (COVAX),” Berkley said.

The WHO said it was also working with the insurance firm Chubb to secure insurance coverage for the programme.

– Thomson Reuters Foundation