By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) – The World Health Organization chief said Tuesday 11 million vaccine doses to fight COVID-19 will be delivered this week, and 237 million shots allocated to 142 economies and countries through the COVAX facility by the end of May for equitable distribution of jabs.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said Angola, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria could also expect deliveries of COVAX-supplied vaccines on Tuesday.
Tedros tweeted that 624,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived in Angola, Southern Africa on Tuesday, adding that frontline health workers and vulnerable groups at high risk of COVID-19 will be prioritized.
The timeline for the delivery of doses, made by AstraZeneca and by India's Serum Institute, will be split into separate two-month schedules, COVAX said in a statement, with the first in February and March and the second in April and May.
"These timelines are dependent on a variety of factors including national regulatory requirements, availability of supply, and fulfillment of other criteria such as validated national deployment and vaccination plans," the statement said.
This first round of allocation outlines the delivery of doses of the AZ/Oxford vaccine (manufactured by AstraZeneca) and COVISHIELD, licensed to and manufactured by Serum Institute of India, to 142 COVAX facility participants, said the statement.
COVAX will deliver 237 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, the WHO chief told a joint virtual media event.
Present were groups such as WHO, UNICEF, the GAVI global vaccines alliance, CEPI, a public-private partnership to develop vaccines, and others.
"This is an unprecedented partnership that will not only change the course of the pandemic but also change the way the world responds to future health emergencies," said Tedros.
"When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted last year, we knew that vaccines would be a vital tool in bringing it under control," he said.
But WHO also knew from its experience with HIV, the H1N1 pandemic, and other diseases that market forces alone would not deliver vaccines' equitable distribution.
"That's why in April last year we established the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, which includes the COVAX vaccines pillar, a partnership between Gavi, CEPI, UNICEF, WHO, and others," he said.
Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said: "With the right funding in place, it may be possible to purchase even more doses, maybe 1.8 billion doses of vaccine in 2021.
"For the low and lower middle income, that's 500 million doses more than we set out to achieve late last year."
Richard Hatchett, CEPI's CEO, said: "The fact that we now have multiple safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 developed in record time is testament to the scientific community, and industry partners from around the world rising to the challenge of this pandemic."