. Raise alarm over high vaccine inequality
The Multilateral Leaders Task Force on COVID-19 vaccines delivery have concerns on the low access to vaccines especially in low- and lower middle-income countries and in Africa, warning that the world is unlikely to achieve the end-2021 target of vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries.
At a meeting of heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group (WHO), World Health Organization (WHO), and World Trade Organization (WTO), and chief executive officers (CEOs) of leading vaccine manufacturing companies, the international organisations to discuss strategies to improve access to COVID-19 vaccines, especially in low- and lower middle-income countries and in Africa.
The Task Force expressed concerns that without urgent steps, the world will miss the year-end target 40% vaccinated population, which it considers as a critical milestone to end the pandemic and for global economic recovery.
It had earlier called on the developed countries to share at least 1 billion vaccine doses with developing countries during 2021, and targets to vaccinate about 60% of the world population by mid-2022
In statement yesterday (Thursday), the Task Force members noted that despite adequate total global vaccine production in the aggregate, the doses are not reaching low- and lower middle-income countries in sufficient amounts, resulting in a crisis of vaccine inequity.
The Task Force encouraged countries that have contracted high amounts of vaccine doses, and vaccine manufacturers, to come together in good faith to urgently accelerate COVID-19 vaccine supplies to COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), two multilateral mechanisms that are crucial for equitable distribution of vaccines.
Members also welcomed the willingness of the CEOs to work collectively with them to end vaccine inequity and their readiness to form a technical working group with the Task Force to exchange and coordinate information on vaccine production and deliveries.
Despite adequate total global vaccine production in the aggregate, the doses are not reaching low- and lower middle-income countries in sufficient amounts, resulting in a crisis of vaccine inequity.
The Task Force therefore stipulated a number of immediate actions to be taken if the 40% coverage threshold is to be reached in all countries by the end of 2021. These include:
“Release doses to low- and lower middle-income countries: Task Force members take note that countries with high vaccination rates have collectively pre-purchased over two billion doses in excess of what is required to fully vaccinate their populations. The Task Force calls again on those countries to urgently swap their near-term delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT; fulfil their dose donation pledges with unearmarked upfront deliveries to COVAX; and release vaccine companies from options and contracts so those doses can be delivered to people in low- and lower middle-income countries. In addition, vaccine manufacturers should prioritize and fulfil their contracts to COVAX and AVAT.
“Transparency on supply of vaccines: To ensure that doses reach countries that need them the most, particularly low- and lower middle-income countries, the Task Force calls on vaccine manufacturers to share details on month-by-month delivery schedules for all vaccine shipments, especially for COVAX and AVAT. In its remarks, WHO emphasized its call for a moratorium on booster doses until the end of 2021, with the exception of the immune-compromised, to help optimize supply to low-income countries.
Eliminate export restrictions, prohibitions: The Task Force calls on all countries to urgently address export restrictions, high tariffs and customs bottlenecks on COVID-19 vaccines and the raw materials and supplies required for the production and timely distribution of vaccines.
“Regulatory streamlining and harmonization: The Task Force calls on all regulatory authorities around the world to create regulatory consistency and standardization on the approval of vaccines, and to support the acceptance of the WHO Emergency Use Listing procedure. In parallel, efforts should be made to boost production of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments globally and expedite equitable delivery of such lifesaving tools to developing countries.”