Countries seeking their own doses of COVID-19 vaccine are making deals with pharmaceutical companies that threaten supply for the world COVAX program for poor and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
“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 one of the leaders of COVAX, a program that aims to provide 1.3 billion doses of vaccine this year to poor and middle-income countries. But 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.”
Intellectual property advocacy
Tedros also called on countries to give up intellectual property rules, in order to allow other countries to manufacture vaccines faster.
“If not now when?” He asked.
The idea of temporarily relinquishing intellectual property rights to tools to fight COVID-19 is expected to come back next week at a meeting of member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In the past, it has encountered opposition from rich countries with large pharmaceutical industries.
New WTO President Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria said her top priority would be to ensure the trade body does more to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, calling the disparities in rates of vaccination between rich and poor of “inadmissible”.
The WTO body, made up of 164 members, usually has to come to a consensus by consensus, unless members agree to a rare vote.
Nigeria will receive doses
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 link briefing that Nigeria expected 14 million doses in total.
Chikwe Ihekweazu, managing director of the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), said the situation in Nigeria was much better than what 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 at the meeting.
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 seemed rarer than feared, possibly due in part to the young average age of the population.
“Introducing the vaccine to 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 the authorities recognized the need for equity in access to vaccines and were determined to pursue multilateral agreements.
“We will not seek bilateral agreements,” Ihekweazu said.
“We will work multilaterally with WHO, with COVAX with the African Union (AU) to make sure that when we get vaccines in Nigeria, the same will happen… across the continent,” he said. declared.