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Global COVID vaccine program Covax falls short of its distribution target

September 8, 2021, 2:12 PM UTC

The global program set up to immunize the world against COVID-19 cut its 2021 supply forecast by more than a quarter, hampered by delays in acquiring life-saving vaccines.

Covax expects to have about 1.4 billion doses by the end of the year, the organizations coordinating the initiative said Wednesday. In June, Covax had forecast that about 1.9 billion doses would be available by the end of 2021. Some manufacturers and countries have prioritized bilateral deals, while export bans and challenges in scaling up production are among other factors hindering the rollout, they said. 

“This is of course bad for the whole world as we’ve seen the dreadful consequences that take hold when the virus is left to roam unchecked,” Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of the vaccine alliance Gavi, told reporters in a briefing. “We cannot afford further delays.”

The effort to deliver vaccines equitably to the whole world has run into hurdles after wealthy countries raced ahead in protecting their own populations. Only a fifth of people in lower-income countries have received a first dose, compared with 80% in higher-income nations, according to Gavi and its partners.

Covax now expects to hit a milestone of 2 billion doses for delivery in the first quarter of 2022. Covax so far has fallen short of its targets, delivering about 243 million doses to 139 countries. Berkley and others have called for transparency from manufacturers to ensure that developing countries aren’t getting bumped to the back of the queue. They’re also pushing for countries to give up their place in line if they have enough doses.

“Are we content?” Berkley said. “Absolutely not. But we are in the process of accelerating.”

On Tuesday, drugmakers reiterated calls for governments to share vaccine doses, saying Group of Seven countries have enough supplies to both satisfy their own needs and increase stocks available for low-and middle-income countries. Wealthy countries will probably have about 1.2 billion extra doses available to redistribute by the end of the year, according to estimates from Airfinity Ltd.

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