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WHO urges vaccine manufacturers to prioritise COVAX contracts

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers to prioritise COVAX contracts at a time when rich countries are procuring vaccines for their citizens as the battle against the pandemic continues.

COVAX is a global effort in which WHO with support from funding partners, wants to distribute vaccines to poor countries across the globe. It is one of the pillars of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is a global collaboration to accelerate development, production and equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatment and vaccines.

Briefing the media Monday on Covid-19, WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said some high-income countries were entering contracts with vaccine manufacturers in some instances undermining the deals that COVAX has in place, and reducing the number of doses the facility can buy.

“So it’s in the interest of all countries, including high-income countries, to ensure that health workers, older people and other at-risk groups are first in line for vaccines globally,” said the WHO chief.

“To achieve this, we need more funding, we need countries to share doses immediately, we need manufacturers to prioritize contracts with COVAX, and we also need a significant increase in the production of vaccines.”

However, on Friday, leaders from several G7 countries and the European Union committed US$ 4.3 billion in new funding to finance the equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics for Covid-19.

“Several G7 countries also committed to sharing doses with COVAX,” said Ghebreyesus.

“These funds and donations move us one step closer to meeting our target to start vaccination of health workers and older people in all countries within the first 100 days of the year. We still face a gap of at least US$ 22.9 billion to fully finance the ACT Accelerator this year.”

Ghebreyesus said even if the funds were available they can only deliver vaccines to poorer countries if high-income countries cooperate in respecting the deals COVAX has done, and the new deals it is doing.

“This is not a matter of charity. It’s a matter of epidemiology,” he emphasized.

“Unless we end the pandemic everywhere, we will not end it anywhere. The longer the virus circulates, the more opportunity it has to change in ways that could make vaccines less effective.

He said more vaccines were being developed, approved and produced, adding there would be enough for everyone in the long run.

“But for now and for the rest of this year, vaccines will be a limited resource. We must use them as strategically as we can,” he added.

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