Countries threaten global Covax vaccine supply by making their own deals: WHO

Workers unload a shipment of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines bearing Covax stickers from a plane at Felix Houphouet Boigny airport of Abidjan on Feb 26, 2021.
Workers unload a shipment of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines bearing Covax stickers from a plane at Felix Houphouet Boigny airport of Abidjan on Feb 26, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (REUTERS) - Countries seeking their own vaccine doses are making deals with drug companies that threaten the supply for the global Covax programme for poor and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization said on Friday (Feb 26).

"Now countries are still pursuing deals that will compromise the Covax supply," WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward told a briefing. "Without a doubt."

The World Health Organization has long called upon rich countries to ensure that vaccines are shared equitably. It is one of the leaders of Covax, a programme to supply hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to poor and middle income countries.

But so far, Covax has had a slow roll-out.

"We can't beat Covid without vaccine equity. Our world will not recover fast enough without vaccine equity, this is clear," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"We have made great progress. But that progress is fragile.

We need to accelerate the supply and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, and we cannot do that if some countries continue to approach manufacturers who are producing vaccines that Covax is counting on."

"These actions undermine Covax and deprive health workers and vulnerable people around the world of life-saving vaccines."

He also called for countries to waive intellectual property rules, to allow other countries to make vaccines more quickly.

"If not now, when?"