WHO warns of 'failure' unless wealthy countries advance their vaccine donations

by Reuters
Friday, 4 June 2021 10:43 GMT

World Health Organization (WHO) officials attend the arrival of the first batch of vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Kigali international airport in Kigali, Rwanda March 3, 2021. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana

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The WHO is urging wealthy countries to donate surplus doses to poorer countries instead of giving them to less vulnerable groups, such as children

By Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, June 4 (Reuters) - Wealthy countries need to give more COVID-19 vaccines and follow the United States in making doses available immediately to cover a 200 million dose gap caused by Indian supply disruptions and manufacturing delays, a WHO senior adviser said on Friday.

The World Health Organization is urging wealthy countries to donate their surplus doses to poorer countries instead of giving them to less vulnerable groups, such as children, and they have so far donated 150 million doses via the COVAX sharing scheme.

However, Bruce Aylward said on Friday that only a small portion of those doses will be available in the short-term in June, July and August when they can make a difference in slowing the pace of infections in the global pandemic.

"We are going to need twice that much and it's got to be brought forward," he said, referring to the size of wealthy country donations so far as G7 health ministers meet in Oxford. "We are setting up for failure if we don't get early doses."

He praised a U.S. plan announced on Thursday to quickly share 25 million doses and encouraged other wealthy countries to follow suit.

Aylward estimated that Indian vaccine export disruptions and delays in getting other vaccines online meant that the COVAX sharing scheme had a gap of around 200 million doses.

India's Serum Institute has diverted AstraZeneca supplies to the domestic market amid a devastating second wave in India and is expected to lift those restrictions in the fourth quarter when other products earmarked for COVAX are also due online.

"All of that is going to arrive at the same time," said Aylward.

(Reporting by Emma Farge and Stephanie Nebehay, Editing by Ros Russell)