2021-10-06 23:23:36 Rich Nations’ Buying Adds to Latin America’s Vaccine Shortage, W.H.O. Says
Rich Nations’ Buying Adds to Latin America’s Vaccine Shortage, W.H.O. Says
A World Health Organization official said Wednesday that the United Nations-backed vaccine program will fall short of its target for delivering doses to Latin America and the Caribbean this year, in part because wealthy countries that pay more for the shots are consuming the majority of the supply.
The global Covax program, which is the primary source of Covid vaccines for the majority of the world, aimed to provide enough doses this year for Latin American and Caribbean countries to inoculate 20% of their populations. However, most countries have only received about 30% of the supply contracted through Covax, according to Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, assistant director of the Pan American Health Organization, a division of the World Health Organization.
“Producers are not prioritizing delivery to the Covax mechanism,” said Dr. Barbosa at a press conference. “They continue to prioritize the bilateral agreements they have because the vaccines are more expensive in these bilateral agreements.”
Wealthy countries have far outpaced the rest of the world in terms of vaccination rates, and they continue to purchase doses as demand for booster shots rises. The World Health Organization reported last week that only nine of Africa’s 54 countries had met the goal of vaccinating 10% of their population by the end of September.
The Indian government’s ban on exporting vaccines has contributed to delays in delivering vaccines to other parts of the world. India, the world’s largest drug producer, imposed the ban in May as it fell behind on domestic vaccination, but it recently announced that with production expanding and its own immunization program gaining traction, the embargo would be lifted this month.
Covax is focusing on delivering vaccines to countries that have vaccinated less than 10% of their population thus far. This includes Jamaica, Nicaragua, and Haiti in the Americas.
With the Covax program failing, the Pan American Health Organization has struck separate deals with China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac, as well as AstraZeneca, to purchase millions of vaccine doses. However, those agreements fall far short of meeting the need.
Around 37% of Latin America and the Caribbean’s population has been fully vaccinated, but access has been very uneven; Cuba, Chile, and Uruguay are among the most vaccinated countries in the world.
“We continue to urge countries with excess doses to share them with countries in our region where they can have a life-saving impact,” said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization.