The Multilateral Leaders Taskforce on COVID-19 (MLT), has expressed dismay at the slow pace and uneven distribution of vaccines and vaccination of adults especially among the poorer countries.
Members of the MLT include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group (WBG), World Health Organization (WHO); and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The Taskforce raised the alarm during the third meeting of heads of international partners with the leaders of the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Gavi and UNICEF to tackle obstacles to rapidly scale-up vaccines in low- and lower middle-income countries, particularly in Africa.
For instance, as at Friday, Nigeria has received only 3.97 million doses of vaccines or 26.8% against 80 million doses promised to reach the 60% or 120 million target of its population to be vaccinated.
In a statement issued at the end of the meeting, the MLT said: “The global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is progressing at two alarmingly different speeds. Less than 2% of adults are fully vaccinated in most low-income countries compared to almost 50% in high income countries.
“These countries, the majority of which are in Africa, simply cannot access sufficient vaccines to meet even the global goals of 10% coverage in all countries by September and 40% by end 2021, let alone the African Union’s goal of 70% in 2022.
“This crisis of vaccine inequity is driving a dangerous divergence in COVID-19 survival rates and in the global economy. We appreciate the important work of AVAT and COVAX to try and address this unacceptable situation.
“However, effectively tackling this acute vaccine supply shortage in low- and lower middle-income countries, and fully enabling AVAT and COVAX, requires the urgent cooperation of vaccine manufacturers, vaccine-producing countries, and countries that have already achieved high vaccination rates.”
The global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is progressing at two alarmingly different speeds. Less than 2% of adults are fully vaccinated in most low-income countries compared to almost 50% in high income countries.
To ensure all countries achieve the global goals of at least 10% coverage by September and 40% by end-2021, the Taskforce called on countries that have contracted high volumes of vaccines to swap near-term delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT.
“We call on vaccine manufacturers to immediately prioritize and fulfil their contracts to COVAX and AVAT, and to provide regular, clear supply forecasts.”
While urging the G7 and all dose-sharing countries to fulfil their pledges urgently, with enhanced pipeline visibility, product shelf life and support for ancillary supplies, as barely 10% of nearly 900 million committed doses have so far been shipped.
“We call on all countries to eliminate export restrictions and any other trade barriers on COVID-19 vaccines and the inputs involved in their production.
“We are in parallel intensifying our work with COVAX and AVAT to tackle persistent vaccine delivery, manufacturing and trade issues, notably in Africa, and mobilize grants and concessional financing for these purposes. We will also explore financing mechanisms to cover future vaccine needs as requested by AVAT.
“We will advocate for better supply forecasts and investments to increase country preparedness and absorptive capacity. And we will continue to enhance our data, to identify gaps and improve transparency in the supply and use of all COVID-19 tools.”
The MLT again reiterated that the time for action is now, as the course of the pandemic and the health of the world are at stake.