GENEVA (AP) – The World Health Organization and its allies said Tuesday that, by February, they hope to have provided Africa with about 30% of the COVID-19 vaccines the continent requires, falling far short of the target for the 60% vaccination that African leaders hoped to achieve this year.
At a press conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out that the huge disparity in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries is a “solvable problem”, and reiterated his call for pharmaceutical companies to prioritize to the United Nations initiative known as COVAX, a program designed to share vaccines with everyone.
However, drug companies – including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – have shown no signs of wanting to change their current tactic, which revolves around convincing rich countries and their regulators to authorize booster doses.
Last week Tedros called for a “moratorium” on the use of boosters in healthy populations until the end of next year. Countries such as Israel, France and Germany have already started giving the third dose of the vaccine to certain people, and the United Kingdom announced on Tuesday its plans to apply boosters to all those over 50 and younger ones who may be more vulnerable to it. COVID-19.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will publicly discuss the booster issue this week. In an opinion piece published Monday, two top FDA officials and WHO scientists wrote in the Lancet that the average person does not require a booster dose.
To date, less than 4% of the African population has the complete vaccination schedule, and most of the 5.7 billion doses applied globally have been administered in just 10 rich countries.
COVAX has achieved very few of its goals and now resorts to begging rich nations to share doses of the vaccine.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, said COVAX expects to have 1.4 billion doses ready for delivery by the end of this year, nearly 25% of its original target.
The president of Afreximbank, Benedict Oramah, warned that the booster doses in Africa would require between 500 and 600 million additional dollars, “being conservative”, and if the logistics cost is included, the figure would rise to 1 billion dollars annually.
Strive Masiyiwa, African Union envoy for COVID-19 vaccines, also called for restrictions on exports and lifting of intellectual property rights to allow vaccines to be manufactured within the continent.
In June, the WHO and its partners opened a center in South Africa to transfer the technology needed to make the vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, but neither company has yet agreed to share their formulas.
“It is not asking too much, because our neighbors in the United States supported these companies to produce some of these vaccines,” Masiyiwa said. “Now let the miracle be available to all mankind.”
In this July 28, 2021 photo, a healthcare worker administers a dose of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine in the Medina neighborhood of Dakar, Senegal. (AP Photo / Leo Correa, File)