20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine rolled out under COVAX: WHO chief

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More than 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been provided to 20 countries under COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access), the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday.

So far, the WHO-backed global vaccine sharing initiative has delivered vaccines to Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Angola, Cambodia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Gambia, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan and Uganda, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“In total, COVAX has delivered more than 20 million doses of vaccine to 20 countries. In the next week, COVAX will deliver 14.4 million doses to further 31 countries,” Tedros said at a press briefing.

Although the first delivery covered most economies engaged in the initiative, the distributed doses are only enough to vaccinate two to three percent of the countries’ population.

Several challenges also remain in boosting global vaccine production, said Tedros.

“We currently face several barriers to increasing the speed and volume of production of vaccines, from export bans to shortages of raw materials including glass, plastic and stoppers. WHO is working on four approaches. The first and most short-term approach is to connect companies who are producing vaccines with other companies who have excess capacity to fill and finish,” he said.

The second way is bilateral technological transfer through which companies with vaccine property rights authorize those without to produce vaccines, but the method lacks transparency.

The third solution is for companies to authorize others through a global coordination mechanism under WHO, which is both more transparent and globally coordinated. Also, this will both help secure regional health and enhance production capacity to respond to future pandemics and regular immunity programs.

At last, vaccine developers may waiver intellectual property rights through World Trade Organization’s TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).

“Many countries with vaccine manufacturing capacity can start producing their own vaccines by waiving intellectual property rights, as provided for in the TRIPS agreement. Those provisions are there for use in emergencies. If now is not a time to use them, then when?” said Tedros.

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