Covax struggles to get shots in arms: 8 things to know

Covax, a global initiative to ensure poorer countries have the same access to COVID-19 vaccines as richer countries, has struggled to get vaccines in arms because of supply shortages, a lack of funding and disorganization, The New York Times reported Aug. 2. 

Eight things to know: 

  1. The United Nations-backed organization, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has struggled to acquire COVID-19 vaccines and is half-billion short of its goal, according to the Times. Covax has delivered about 163 million doses, most of which were free and given to poorer nations, but some of which were delivered to countries that paid for the doses, such as Canada. The organization had projected that it would deliver at least 640 million at this point, the Times reported.

  2. Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, one of the organizations that founded Covax, told the Times that insufficient early financing made supply shortages inevitable.

  3. Poorer countries have struggled to buy fuel to move vaccines they receive from Covax from airports to clinics. They also face a lack of funding for training people to administer the shots and marketing campaigns to persuade people to receive a vaccine. Covax had planned on using grants and loans from the World Bank to finance the rollout in poorer countries, but due to supply shortages, the countries spent most of that money to get more doses. 
  1. Bureaucratic slowdowns imposed by Covax leaders have stalled the disbursement of $220 million in funds to help poorer countries administer shots, according to interviews and Covax records reviewed by the Times.

    "Covax is like a group project without a leader," Andrea Taylor, a Duke researcher studying global vaccinations, told the Times. "Everything they do is that much slower."
  1. Covax planned to receive huge amounts of vaccine doses from the Serum Institute in India, but after the virus surged there in March, the Indian government halted vaccine exports.

  2. Johnson & Johnson, which has struggled with production issues, has not delivered any doses to Covax, the Times reported. Several major vaccine makers, including Moderna, only recently agreed to supply shots to the organization.

  3. The U.S. recently bought 500 million Pfizer shots to deliver through Covax, and those doses should begin shipping this month, the Times reported. But to help fund the deal, the U.S. is diverting hundreds of millions of dollars promised for vaccination drives in poorer countries.

  4. Without getting billions of more shots administered globally, health experts warn that new virus variants could keep emerging, endangering those in both poor and wealthy countries, the Times reported.

    "Covax hasn’t failed, but it is failing," Ayoade Alakija, a co-chair of the African Union’s vaccine delivery program, told the Times. "We really have no other options. For the sake of humanity, Covax must work." 

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