Vaccines for poorest countries in weeks: WHO

EU doubles Pfizer vaccine order, Chinese vaccine 78pc effective

Agence France-Presse . Geneva | Published: 11:11, Jan 08,2021 | Updated: 00:06, Jan 09,2021


The world’s poorest countries can expect to start receiving their first COVID-19 vaccine doses between the end of January and mid-February, the World Health Organisation said Thursday.

Vaccination is already under way in some of the world’s wealthiest nations, including the United States, Britain, European Union  countries and Canada.

Covax, the globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort, has struck agreements to secure two billion doses — and the first of those will start rolling out within weeks, said the WHO’s head of vaccines, Kate O’Brien.

Covax aims to secure vaccines for 20 per cent of the population in each participating country by the end of the year, with funding covered for the 92 lower- and lower-middle income economies involved in the scheme.

It is co-led by the WHO, the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Asked how quickly lower-income African nations would get vaccines, O’Brien told a WHO live social media event, ‘The facility has access to over two billion doses of vaccine.

‘We will start to deliver those vaccines probably by the end of January, and, if not, certainly by early February and mid-February.’

‘That’s how countries in Africa and South Asia, and other countries around the world of these 92 that are less able to afford vaccines, are actually going to get vaccines.’

Meanwhile, the EU has struck a deal to double its supply of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 to a total of 600 million doses, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

‘We have right now, access to 300 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine... With the new agreement we could purchase a total of up to an additional 300 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine,’ she told a press conference.

She said that, along with the Moderna vaccine also authorised for use in the EU, ‘we have already secured an amount of doses that we need to vaccinate 380 million Europeans, and this is more than 80 per cent of the European population’.

Von der Leyen said that other vaccine authorisations were expected ‘in the coming weeks and months’ so ‘Europe will have more than enough vaccine within a reliable timeframe’.

Meanwhile, Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac showed at least 78-per cent effectiveness in final-stage clinical trials in Brazil, officials announced Thursday, saying they would apply for emergency approval from the Brazilian regulatory agency to begin a vaccination campaign.

‘This is a historic day, a day of hope,’ Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria told a news conference announcing the results.

He said his state’s vaccination campaign would begin on January 25, though that will require approval from federal regulatory agency Anvisa.

The Butantan Institute, Sao Paulo’s leading public health center, said it would apply for emergency approval by Friday.

The vaccine, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac, showed effectiveness of 78 per cent in Phase 3 testing on 13,000 volunteers in the Brazilian study, officials said.

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