By Hassan Zaggi
The Multilateral Leaders Task Force including International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) Group, World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO), have expressed concern that without urgent steps the world is may not achieve the end-2021 target of vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries which is a critical milestone to end the pandemic and for global economic recovery.
The Task Force made it position known at a meeting with the CEOs of leading vaccine manufacturing companies to discuss strategies to improve the access to COVID-19 vaccines, especially in low- and lower middle-income countries and in Africa.
It would be recalled that the Task Force have joined forces to accelerate access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics by leveraging multilateral finance and trade solutions, particularly for low- and middle-income countries.
The aim is to vaccinate at least 40 percent of people in every country by the end of 2021, and at least, 60 percent by mid-2022.
In a statement, the Task Force members noted that, despite adequate total global vaccine production in the aggregate, the doses are not reaching low- and lower middle-income countries in sufficient amounts, resulting in a crisis of vaccine inequity.
The Task Force, therefore, encouraged countries that have contracted high amounts of vaccine doses, and vaccine manufacturers, to come together in good faith to urgently accelerate COVID-19 vaccine supplies to COVAX and AVAT, two multilateral mechanisms that are crucial for equitable distribution of vaccines.
The Task Force members welcomed the willingness of the CEOs to work collectively with them to end vaccine inequity and their readiness to form a technical working group with the Task Force to exchange and coordinate information on vaccine production and deliveries.
They, however, stressed that if the 40% coverage threshold is to be reached in all countries by the end of 2021, countries with high vaccination rates that have collectively pre-purchased over two billion doses in excess of what is required to fully vaccinate their populations, should, as a matter of urgency, “swap their near-term delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT; fulfill their dose donation pledges with unearmarked upfront deliveries to COVAX, and release vaccine companies from options and contracts so those doses can be delivered to people in low- and lower middle-income countries and adding that vaccine manufacturers should prioritize and fulfill their contracts to COVAX and AVAT.
The Task Force advocated for the need toensure that doses reach countries that need them the most, particularly low- and lower middle-income countries.
It, therefore, called on vaccine manufacturers to share details on month-by-month delivery schedules for all vaccine shipments, especially for COVAX and AVAT.
In its remarks, WHO emphasized its call for a moratorium on booster doses until the end of 2021, with the exception of the immune-compromised, to help optimize supply to low-income countries.
The Task Force also called on all countries to urgently address export restrictions, high tariffs and customs bottlenecks on COVID-19 vaccines and the raw materials and supplies required for the production and timely distribution of vaccines.