Global bickering over vaccines hits poor nations
A co-founder of the global scheme to provide COVID-19 vaccines for poor people said on Thursday India was delaying exports of much-needed jabs, as EU leaders met for crisis talks in Brussels to try to solve supply issues on the badly-hit continent.
The fracas around vaccines threatens to slow a global immunization drive that is seen as the way out of the pandemic, as third waves sweep several countries and force governments to reimpose tough restrictions.
At the center of much of the vaccine controversy is AstraZeneca, which yesterday said its jab was 76 percent effective instead of 79 percent after being called out for publishing outdated data.
AstraZeneca is also one of the main vaccines used in the COVAX project, which supplies poorer countries with jabs, and is facing export delays in India where it is produced by the Serum Institute.
Yesterday, the Gavi alliance, a COVAX co-founder, said deliveries of vaccines to lower-income economies will face delays because of a “setback” in obtaining export licences from the Indian government.
A Gavi spokesperson said the licence delays “are due to the increased demand of COVID-19 vaccines in India.”
The vast country recorded more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases yesterday for the first time since November and is struggling to keep up with its own faltering vaccine drive at home.
“COVAX is in talks with the government of India with a view to ensuring deliveries as quickly as possible,” the Gavi spokesperson said, without giving details.
The AstraZeneca shot was hailed as a breakthrough because it is cheaper and easier to store and transport compared with other vaccines.
It is at the center of the EU’s vaccine woes, with an infuriated Brussels tightening export controls after the British-Swedish company failed to deliver the doses it had promised.
EU leaders were meeting via video conference yesterday to discuss AstraZeneca supplies, as well as new vaccine export rules that will weigh how needy countries are in terms of infection rates, how many jabs they have, and how readily they export doses to the bloc.
Draft conclusions of the meeting show support for export controls and warn that Europe must step up its own game on vaccine production.
“Accelerating the production, delivery and deployment of vaccines remains essential and urgent to overcome the crisis. Efforts to this end must be further intensified,” the draft said.
Mass vaccination programs are considered vital to ending the pandemic, which has killed more than 2.7 million people around the world, hammered the global economy and left much of humanity under punishing restrictions.
“We were just waiting to be all together again because we were really sad to be divided like that, floor by floor,” said Lydie, a 91-year-old resident of a retirement home in France’s Val-de-Marne, where jabs have allowed an easing of curbs.
“There was no joy. Now it’s very good. We are happy.”