Close to 40 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have already been distributed through the COVAX Facility, half of them in Africa, but vaccine supplies are still stalled due to “tremendous demand” especially in India, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
COVAX, a WHO-led program to secure equitable access to vaccines for low and middle-income countries, “has, as of today, distributed just over 38.7 million doses and we expect to get past 40 million doses later this week,” Bruce Aylward, the WHO’s senior advisor to the director general on organisational change, said at a press conference on Monday, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Over 40 countries on the African continent will have received doses by the end of this week, and they will receive nearly half of the doses from COVAX,” he added.
However, the COVAX Facility has experienced major difficulties in accessing vaccines, especially since the Serum Institute of India, “one of the main producers that supply the COVAX Facility” according to Aylward, cut back on AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries due to the “tremendous demand” created by the “escalating outbreak in India.”
One solution suggested by the WHO to ensure proper immunization is to administer the second AstraZeneca dose after “12 weeks” or even a bit later, Aylward said.
At the same time, the WHO urged populations to continue practicing the infection control measures as vaccines represent just one approach to dealing with Covid-19.
“There was a nine per cent increase in transmissions last week, the seventh consecutive week when we’ve seen an increase in transmission, and a five percent increase in the number of deaths,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19.
“We are at a critical point of the pandemic right now,” she stressed.