GENEVA (AFP) – The public health group that runs the UN-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries is slashing its supply forecast for this year by more than 100 million doses, in large part because an Indian manufacturer is making Major focused on needs at home.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, says it now expects the COVAX program can deliver just under 1.9 billion doses this year — including about 1.5 billion given free to 92 poor countries — down from the original goals of more than two billion doses.
The shortage comes because the Serum Institute of India – the pivotal producer of COVAX vaccines – has returned supplies to needy people in India, as its government has sought to combat a surge in infections.
So far, COVAX has distributed only about 90 million doses, far fewer than its original plans.
Recent dose-sharing announcements by wealthy countries like the United States that have or are close to increasing the supply of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to help fill the gap by several hundred million doses, according to a Gavi official.
Doubts remain over the outlook for new supplies, including when the large-scale export of vaccines from the Serum Institute will resume; Regulatory processes for candidate vaccines such as the one from Novavax, another major potential resource; And when countries actually donate doses.
The World Health Organization has repeatedly urged rich countries to do more to release stockpiles or rights to get vaccines to offset unequal access to coronavirus shots. She says the vast majority of immunizations so far have been in the developed world.
WHO officials insist timing is critical, with doses now needed to prevent worrisome new variants from emerging such as the delta variant, which originally emerged in India and has been blamed for increased transmission of COVID-19 in many countries.
The revised forecast comes as Gavi’s board prepares Thursday to review the way it works with the nearly 100 middle- and high-income countries and regions that also participate in COVAX but pay for vaccines through it – the so-called “self” – Participant Financing” or SFCs.
Many of these participants, including Britain, Canada, EU member states, Japan, South Korea and wealthy Gulf states, lined up other ways to get vaccines and did not benefit from doses through COVAX. The United States funds and supplies COVAX, but is not a participant.
Instead, the Gavi Council plans to focus COVAX efforts on middle and upper-income countries — such as Colombia or Argentina — that have challenges getting vaccines and can still benefit from COVAX.
“The reality is that some of today’s self-financed participants, especially high-income economies, do not need to rely on COVAX for vaccines,” Gavi said.
Gavi, a public-private partnership, runs the program along with the Alliance for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the UN children’s agency that helps distribute doses once they are delivered to COVAX recipient countries.