Vaccines are an integral part of the solution to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of the crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) has argued that coordinated care must be taken to ensure that everyone, not just people, ensures that living in rich countries receives adequate protection from the virus as it spreads rapidly around the world spreads.
Out of this concern arose the Global COVAX Facility, the only global initiative that works with governments and manufacturers to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are available to both higher-income and lower-income countries around the world.
Here are five things you should know about the challenges of COVAX and how to overcome them.
© UNICEF / Adrian Musinguzi
A health worker pulls a vial containing the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from a cooler in Uganda. 1) Export controls: the weakest link?
At the beginning of the pandemic, UNICEF was building stocks of half a billion syringes in warehouses outside the countries where they were made. The foresight paid off: countries exported the syringes, prices rose and supplies were limited.
Diane Abad-Vergara, WHO communications officer for COVAX and COVID-19 vaccines from WHOSeveral countries, also conducted export controls on vaccines, prompting WHO to warn of the “vaccine nationalism” that encourages hoarding and drives prices up and ultimately increases pandemic prolongation, the restrictions required to contain the pandemic, and human and economic suffering.
Getting cans into people’s arms requires a complex global supply chain. From the ingredients needed to make the vaccine to the glass and plastic stoppers and tubes to the syringes. Because of this, export bans or controls on any of these products can significantly disrupt the introduction of vaccines.
Because of the many ways export controls can restrict supply, poorer countries have a much better chance of protecting their citizens if they are able to manufacture vaccines themselves.
“WHO supports countries in their efforts to acquire and maintain the technology and capacity to manufacture vaccines,” said Diane Abad-Vergara, COVAX communications director for the agency, “through initiatives such as the Network of Vaccine Manufacturers in Developing Countries and helping them to do so Establish additional manufacturing facilities – particularly in Africa, Asia and Latin America – that are critical to meeting ongoing demand for COVID-19 booster and future vaccines. A worldwide expansion of production would make poor countries less dependent on donations from rich countries. ”
© UNICEF / Henry Bongyereirwe
In Uganda, vaccines are delivered to remote areas on foot, by boat and by motorbike. 2) Getting vaccines to those who need them is not easy
Gian Gandhi, COVAX Coordinator for UNICEF Supply Department., By © UNICEF / John McIlwaine Why all countries that are part of COVAX have the necessary infrastructure to bring pallets of vaccines from cargo planes to cold storage, the next few steps can more its complicated.
“Ghana, the first country to receive COVAX cans, has a good record of distributing cans,” says Gian Gandhi, UNICEF’s global COVAX coordinator, resources needed to distribute the cans and distribute them on their territory To distribute cities and villages where they are needed. This means that in many poorer countries, most of the doses are distributed in large urban centers. ”
“We want to make sure that nobody misses anything,” says Gandhi, “but in the short term, the concentration of doses in cities means at least vaccination of health and other frontline workers in urban areas where the people are.” A higher population density carries a higher risk of exposure and is prioritized. ”
3) More resources are needed to support uptake in the poorest countries
One way to expedite the introduction of vaccines and the delivery of urban warehouses to remote areas is simply cash. “Funding is a constant problem, even in a pandemic,” said Ms. Abad-Vergara. “In order to continue supplying its 190 members with vaccines, COVAX needs at least 3.2 billion US dollars in 2021. The sooner this funding goal is met, the faster vaccines can get into people’s arms.”
Contributions from several countries, particularly the EU, the UK and the US, have gone a long way in closing the funding gap for vaccines. However, financing the supply of these vaccines is more problematic.
UNICEF estimates an additional $ 2 billion will be needed to help the poorest 92 countries pay for essentials such as refrigerators, health worker training, vaccine and fuel costs for the refrigerated vans, and urges donors to pay 510 million US dollars of it to be earned immediately as part of a humanitarian appeal to meet urgent needs.
© UNICEF / Khasar Sandag
Mongolia began vaccinating people in March with the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine made available through the COVAX facility. 4) Richer countries should part
COVAX is in competition with individual countries doing direct business with pharmaceutical companies and is putting additional pressure on the supply of COVID-19 vaccines available. At the same time, richer countries could face an oversupply of cans.
The current “me first” approach will ultimately cost more in life. Diane Abad-Vergara, COVAX communication focus, WHO
“We urge these countries to share their excess doses and contact COVAX and UNICEF as soon as possible,” says Gandhi. are required. Unfortunately, we don’t see too many high-income countries ready to share right now. ”
“The current ‘me first’ approach favors those who can pay the most and ultimately cost more financially and in terms of life,” warns Abad-Vergara. “It is important to note, however, that bilateral agreements do not prevent a country from receiving doses or contributing to COVAX, particularly through dose-sharing.”
© UNICEF / Sujay Reddy
In New Delhi, India, a poster plays a role in clearing myths about the COVID-19 vaccine. 5) Vaccine hesitation: Still a cause for concern
Despite the overwhelming evidence that vaccination saves lives, the hesitation in any country about vaccination is still a problem that must be constantly addressed.
This phenomenon is partly due to misinformation regarding all aspects of COVID-19, which was a concern even before the declaration of a global health emergency. In May, the United Nations launched the Verified Campaign to fight lies and distorted messages with trustworthy and accurate information related to the crisis.
“There was a lot of misinformation during the pandemic,” says Ms. Abad-Vergara. “WHO is working hard to combat this, building trust in vaccines and engaging diverse communities.”