Mbabane: The COVAX facility where Eswatini is expecting 500 000 AstraZeneca doses has received zero shipments since March due to India’s Covid-19 outbreak, leaving it 140 million doses short, UNICEF said.
COVAX is an alliance run by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi, and the World Health Organization, with UNICEF providing vaccination services on the ground.
Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi has come out to assure EmaSwati that they should not panic as they will get vaccinated in time more especially those who are waiting for the second dose.
“We would, however, like to assure everyone who received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine that we are expecting delivery of the doses within the next two weeks as we expect the updated protocol to be approved this coming week,” said Nkosi.
The Minister justified the delay to the new requirements from AstraZeneca.
Nkosi said World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that vaccine candidates can be mixed. “For example, a first dose of AstraZeneca can be followed by a second dose from Pfizer. We will therefore utilize any candidate that arrives first for those who received the first dose of AstraZeneca.”
However, the pool where Eswatini was expecting to receive the doses has no doses to deliver to the member countries. COVAX, the project to vaccinate the world’s poorest nations, has received zero shipments since March due to India’s Covid-19 outbreak, leaving it 140 million doses short, UNICEF said.
According to a statement released Monday, May 17, 2021, UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said the COVAX scheme was far behind where it needed to be due to the situation in India, and that rich countries needed to do more.
The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest drug maker, had agreed to supply COVAX with one-quarter of the 2 billion vaccines it wanted to administer in 2021.
However, the SII suspended exports in March to focus on the domestic market, as India started to experience a devastating wave of COVID-19 cases.
“Soaring domestic demand has meant that 140 million doses intended for distribution to low-and middle-income countries through the end of May cannot be accessed by COVAX,” she wrote.
“Another 50 million doses are likely to be missed in June,” she said. “This, added to vaccine nationalism, limited production capacity, and lack of funding, is why the roll-out of Covid vaccines is so behind schedule.”
Fore said that between the EU and the group of G7 nations, around 153 million vaccine doses could be found to replace the shortage if each country “gave 20% of their available supply over June, July, and August.”
Gian Gandhi, UNICEF’s COVAX coordinator for supply, told the BBC: “Unfortunately, we’re in a situation where we just don’t know when the next set of doses will materialize.”
“Our hope is, things will get back on track, but the situation in India is uncertain … and a huge concern,” he said.
Dr. Richard Mihigo, the head of the WHO’s immunization and vaccine development program in Africa, told the BBC that the continent is heavily reliant on Indian vaccine producers.
“We do sympathize with the situation in India,” he said. “Most of our COVAX doses so far have come from India.
As of this spring, many wealthy countries around the world have vaccinated significant parts of their populations, while most of the world’s poorest nations have not yet administered a single dose.
Experts have called COVAX’s plan to vaccinate 20 percent of the populations of 92 countries by the end of 2021 as “the bare minimum.”