Two months after its launch, the international Covax program is lagging behind


Launched by the World Health Organization in February to provide vaccines to low-income countries, it is already experiencing many delays and dysfunctions.

After Israel, it is the turn of the United States to celebrate a successful vaccination campaign with 45% of its population first vaccinated. For its part, France crossed the 25% mark in early May with more than 16 million first doses injected. In all, in the world, since the beginning of December, a billion doses have been distributed but they are unevenly distributed. Rich countries concentrate 47% against only 0.2% for lower income countries. One in four people is vaccinated in some rich countries against one in 500 in some poor countries, estimated in mid-April, the boss of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

It’s time to share», Declared Emmanuel Macron on April 23 on the occasion of the sending of the first 105,000 French doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to West African countries as part of the Covax program. Initiated at the end of February under the aegis of the WHO, the objective is to provide equitable access to vaccination throughout the world. Around 100 countries are joining forces to deliver 500 million doses by the end of the first half of 2021 to 121 lower-income nations, mainly in Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania. A program whose cost currently amounts to three billion dollars, two of which have been provided by the United States. An investment that is still largely insufficient, according to the WHO, which recommends an additional $ 5 billion for the program to be effective.

Two months after the first dose injected into the President of Ghana, where is the international system?

Many delays caused by the Indian crisis

Only 50 million doses of the 100,000 planned have been distributed. “We will be between two and four months late on deliveries», Informs Nathalie Ernoult, researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) and co-director of the Observatory for Global Health. Asked by Le Figaro, the specialist points to several reasons for this delay. The first is logistics, “setting up such a system in times of crisis is not easy and requires a lot of international coordination“. Furthermore, “the idea of ​​putting rich and poor countries on the same level in an emergency situation was a bit unrealistic, she adds. Countries that could have developed direct agreements with laboratories”Despite lower income countries that have not been able to access this form of health nationalism.

Finally, the last difficulty is the epidemic outbreak in India which has not only flooded the country’s health system, but also undermined international vaccine aid. Lower production, closed borders, national preference, India almost no longer exports its precious doses of Astra Zeneca despite the international program which is 75% dependent on it. A strategic choice made by the world health authorities, based on a more affordable price and better storage conditions compared to Pfizer or Moderna sera which require to be stored in refrigerators between -15 ° C and 25 ° C. Without a dose from India, the Covax program is slowing down. To avoid these shortage situations, it is advisable to diversify your sources of supply. It is with this in mind that Moderna has promised the delivery of 500 million doses. The first vials of this messenger RNA vaccine should be delivered in minority this year, the rest being scheduled for 2022, said the Vaccine Alliance, the main partner in the operation. We will therefore have to be patient. How to speed up the process to prevent new variants from emerging again and giving rise to fears of an impossible exit from the crisis? Should vaccine patents be lifted to produce more of them?

Lift patents to increase orders?

Requested by 170 heads of state and Nobel laureates including François Hollande in an open letter to Joe Biden, published last April, the lifting of patents could allow new laboratories to mass produce vaccines. A request that the United States finally said in favor on Wednesday April 5. “The extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measuresSaid US Trade Representative Katherine Tai. An initiative with which the French president has aligned himself and which has delighted the entire international community up to the UN summit which thus hopes “significantly increase the supply of the Covax system“.

For Nathalie Ernoult, this patent lifting is “a step»Which should serve as a stepping stone to a multiplication of production centers such as Bangladesh for example. Finally, she recalls that the multiplication of doses will not be enough to vaccinate the entire world population, still cautious in some countries. As an example, she cites the Democratic Republic of Congo which has refused more than a million doses and redirected them to other African nations such as Ghana which has already administered nearly 900,000 doses for 30 million inhabitants. Waiting, “governments currently with excess doses must share those doses with us so that we can deliver them where they are needed most.“Asks the spokesperson for the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), asked by Le Figaro. For its part, France, “pioneer in the Covax system», Is preparing to send its second major vaccine delivery. Destination still unknown.

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