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India's export ban hits COVAX alliance; Covid-19 vaccine shortfall 190 million doses

COVAX has delivered over 70 million doses to 126 countries around the world since February, in the largest and most complex rollout of vaccines in history

twitter-logoPB Jayakumar | May 28, 2021 | Updated 13:56 IST
India's export ban hits COVAX alliance; Covid-19 vaccine shortfall 190 million doses
Serum Institute of India (SII), one of the major suppliers to Covax alliance, could not meet its supplies in the past few months due to the second Covid-19 wave in India

COVAX, a global alliance to develop and equitably distribute Covid-19 vaccines and medicines, has said the 'terrible surge of the virus in India' has impacted its supply in the second quarter of this year. Covax fears it will face a shortfall of 190 million doses by the end of June.

COVAX has delivered over 70 million doses to 126 countries around the world since February, in the largest and most complex rollout of vaccines in history. COVAX will have larger volumes available later in the year through the deals it has already secured with several manufacturers. It plans to deliver 2 billion doses of vaccines worldwide in 2021, and 1.8 billion doses to 92 lower income economies by early 2022.

Serum Institute of India (SII), one of the major suppliers to Covax alliance, could not meet its supplies in the past few months due to the second Covid-19 wave in India, forcing the Government to enforce ban on export of vaccines.

Also read: Never exported vaccines at cost of people in India: Serum Institute

COVAX, co-convened by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) along with other stakeholders like UNICEF and World Bank, said urgent action is required to equip it to deliver 2 billion doses in 2021. Millions of dollars and doses were committed to COVAX on 21 May, bringing the total doses pledged so far to more than 150 million.

France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the UAE have done initial commitments to donate doses through COVAX. The US, Norway, Croatia, Romania, Australia and Portugal have announced they will donate doses to countries in need. The target for 2021 is well within the reach, but it will require  governments and the private sector to urgently unlock new sources of doses, with deliveries starting in June, said a COVAX joint statement.  

It said funding the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) is an option. The AMC has already secured 1.3 billion doses for delivery in 2021. This is enough to protect the most at-risk population groups - health workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions in developing countries.

An additional $2 billion is needed to lift coverage in AMC countries up to nearly 30%. The alliance will need these funds by June 2 to lock in supplies now, so that doses can be delivered through 2021 and into early 2022.

Also read: COVID-19 vaccine: India's export curbs hurt developing nations, says IMF

It said another option is to share doses, as countries with the largest supplies can redirect doses to COVAX now, to have maximum impact. The United States and Europe have collectively pledged to share 180 million doses. Countries with higher coverage rates, which are due to receive doses soon should swap their places in supply queues with COVAX so that doses can be equitably distributed as quickly as possible.

Wealthy countries should immediately commit at least one billion doses in 2021. The goal of sharing at least 1 billion excess doses by the end of 2021 is based on a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation analysis of current projections of excess doses globally. Even under conservative estimates, the analysis finds that after sharing 1 billion doses, wealthy countries would have sufficient doses to vaccinate 80% of their populations 12 years and older in 2021, it said.

COVAX also appealed nations to free up supply chains by removing trade barriers, export control measures, and other transit issues that block, restrict or slowdown the supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, raw materials, components and supplies.

Also read: Centre does away with local trials for foreign COVID-19 vaccines to fast-track imports

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