Dozens of countries are unable to administer a second dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the absence of adequate doses, which threatens to permanently destabilize vaccination campaigns, the UN warned today.
"We have a very large number of countries that have had to suspend their second-dose vaccination campaign - 30 or 40 countries - which should have received second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for example and are unable to do so" , said Dr. Bruce Ellward, in charge of the Covax international distribution system at the WHO.
"The interval (between the first and second installments) is now longer than we would like," he warned, explaining that the Covax mechanism was in direct negotiations with AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India, which is expected to produce the largest part of the doses for Covax. However, exports of these doses are prohibited due to the urgent need for vaccines in India itself.
A very long interval between the two doses can facilitate the emergence of more dangerous and more contagious strains.
According to Eilward, these countries are located mainly in sub-Saharan Africa but also in Latin America, the Middle East and South Asia, especially India's neighbors such as Nepal or even Sri Lanka, which are expected to face a serious wave of infections.
Currently, Covax partners are trying to access a maximum number of installments, which are crucial for the period from June to September.
He noted that the United States had promised 80 million doses for the period June-July, but most of the one billion doses promised by the G7 will be available much later in the year and especially in 2022.
"Donations are a short-term solution to a particularly imperfect market where only countries that have the means or produce vaccines have access to them," he said.
Dr. Eilward highlighted the adverse effects of these strokes on population confidence in vaccination.
"When we force countries with less robust systems to interrupt, reorganize and redirect their program, we make it very difficult to mobilize the population," he said.
"We often hear it from politicians who want to mobilize their population but are afraid to do so prematurely because the installments have not been delivered," he insisted.
As of June 17, the Covax system had delivered just 88 million doses in 131 countries, far less than originally planned.