Poor countries to wait longer for AstraZeneca doses from India

The hope of getting AstraZeneca vaccine from India by poor countries from June have been dashed after the Serum Institute of India said it can only export doses by the end of the year.

The move deals a body blow to many countries especially in Africa that solely depended on vaccine shipments from India under the World Health Organization-backed Covax programme.

“We continue to scale up manufacturing and prioritize India,” Adar Poonawalla, the Serum Institute of India chief executive, said on Tuesday, May 18. “We also hope to start delivering to Covax and other countries by the end of this year,” he added, referring to the multilateral vaccine programme.

Previously, the Serum Institute had indicated to resume exports in June, on condition that Covid-19 infections in India keep declining.

Covax is a WHO supported vaccine acquisition and distribution programme that aims to provide two billion Covid doses to poor nations this year.

Read also: Covid is triggering alarming poverty levels across Africa — study

The continued surge of Covid-19 variant in India is derailing vaccination programmes in countries depending on Covax to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

India’s vaccine drive has slowed, with hospitals reporting dose shortages as the health ministry reported record 4,529 Covid-19 deaths and 267,334 new cases on Wednesday, May 19.

Meanwhile the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is urging G7 and EU nations to donate vaccines to countries in need.

“And they could do this while still fulfilling their vaccination commitments to their own populations,” UNICEF director Henrietta Fore said.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance have inked an advance purchase deal with Moderna to secure 500 million doses for COVAX, with the first batch intended for poor countries under the global initiative’s advance market commitment.

African countries had as May 13 acquired 38.03 million Covid-19 vaccines, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

At the same time, Kenya has placed an order of 30 million Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses, which according to Health CS Mutahi Kagwe is as a result of the shortage of the AstraZeneca doses from India.

In the last 24 hours, Kenya’s Ministry of Health announced 469 positive cases from a sample size of 6,244, posting 7.5 per cent positivity rate.

However, eight people have succumbed to the virus; three on divers dates within the last one month and five being late deaths after a facility records audit. The total number of fatalities now stand at 3,021.

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