COVAX to ship enough shots for 3% of poor countries' populations in H1 - WHO

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX plans to ship enough COVID-19 shots to cover around 3% of the populations of low-income countries in the first half of this year, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Vials labelled "COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" are placed on dry ice in this illustration taken, December 5, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

COVAX, co-led by the GAVI vaccine alliance, the WHO and others, wants to deliver at least 2 billion doses across the world this year, and said as many as 1.8 billion doses would be available to 92 poorer countries, which would correspond to approximately 27% coverage in those countries.

But it has struggled to secure enough shots due to a shortage of funds, while production problems and bilateral deals between wealthy countries and drugmakers have raised concerns over unequal distribution.

Diah Saminarsih, a ‎senior adviser to the Director-General of WHO, told Reuters in an interview that the 92 countries were likely to get enough vaccines for 3% of their populations by the end of the first half.

“That’s our commitment. It seems impossible for the WHO to go back on their promise,” she said.

The WHO is currently reviewing 11 vaccines for emergency use, she said. Some poorer countries with limited regulatory capacity rely on WHO authorisations to proceed with vaccinations.

It plans to approve several vaccines from Western and Chinese developers in coming weeks, a document published last week showed, as it aims for rapid rollouts in poorer countries.

The WHO has authorized just one COVID-19 vaccine so far - a shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Indonesia, which would get around 8 million doses from COVAX to cover 3% of its population, surpassed a million confirmed coronavirus cases this week.

It started mass inoculations earlier this month, using a vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac, and tightened curbs on movement with hospitals in Jakarta already running at full capacity.

Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Nick Macfie