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Even prepared countries struggling with vaccines: WHO

‘This is no small undertaking,’ says World Health Organization’s head of immunization and vaccines

Peter Kenny   | 27.01.2021
Even prepared countries struggling with vaccines: WHO

GENEVA

Even the most prepared countries are struggling to deliver their jabs with vaccines coming on stream, the head of immunization and vaccines at the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday. 

Dr. Katherine O’Brien addressed a virtual press conference organized by ACANU, the Geneva UN press association, along with Seth Berkley, the chief executive officer of Gavi, the international vaccine alliance looking for access to poorer nations.

“We have already made really substantial progress to assure that the vaccines are safe, effective, and are of high quality,” O’Brien said, noting that around the world, vaccines are starting to roll out.

“This is no small undertaking. And even the most prepared, the highest capacitated countries are struggling to deliver these vaccines in the dimension, the age groups and the scope that is needed,” she said.

“This scenario will take force, energy, and the expertise of everybody around the world to support countries to do this with effectiveness.”

The world is aware that most vaccines have been dispensed in the developed world, with many countries struggling to get them to people.

“We have already trained tens of thousands of workers in countries through virtual means on the deployment of these vaccines,” O’Brien said.

Berkley, for his part, said Gavi believes that COVAX may be able to deliver almost 2.3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide by the end of this year.

Early on in the pandemic, the WHO set up the ACT-Accelerator, known as COVAX, convened by CEPI, the coalition to develop vaccines, and Gavi, with the world health body, aimed at speeding up the search for an effective vaccine for all countries, including the most vulnerable.

“Of these, something like 1.8 billion doses could be available to lower-income countries at no cost to their governments, including over 700 million doses for African nations,” said Berkley, an epidemiologist by training.

“We are currently on track to meet our original objective of vaccinating 20% of the population of each and every lower-income country enough to protect the health workers and the most vulnerable high-risk groups,” he said.

Among the challenges facing Gavi is that it has successfully raised about $6 billion of at least $8 billion needed to procure the vaccines and support their delivery, the CEO said.

He welcomed the news from the US that it will be joining the COVAX facility.

It is essential to look to second-generation vaccines and look to the new variants of COVID-19 of which the world is aware, Berkley added.

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