New reckoning for WHO vaccine plan as governments go it alone


The planet Health Organization will next week receive a raft of pledges of support for its plan for COVID-19 vaccines for all.

New reckoning for WHO vaccine plan as governments go it alone


But the agency has already had to reduce its ambition.

The us, Japan, Britain and therefore the European Union have struck their own deals to secure many COVID-19 vaccine doses for his or her citizens, ignoring the U.N. body’s warnings that "vaccine nationalism" will squeeze supplies.

If other countries which will afford it pursue an identical approach, the WHO's strategy for fighting the coronavirus pandemic globally and equitably risks coming undone, experts warn.

"If that were to happen, it's fairly clear that there would be insufficient volumes of vaccine available for the other countries, particularly within the first six to nine months," said Alex Harris, head of worldwide policy at the Wellcome Trust health charity.

Countries wishing to be a part of the WHO initiative, dubbed COVAX, must submit expressions of interest by Monday.

More than 170 countries, including Canada, Norway, South Korea and Britain, have submitted non-binding expressions of interest to participate within the scheme, which the WHO has touted because the only global initiative to make sure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to rich and poor countries alike.

It has signed up nine COVID-19 vaccine candidates and began plans to get and deliver 2 billion doses by the top of 2021 across countries that check in.

But it's struggled to urge wealthier countries on board fully beyond pledges of funding and warm words about donating surplus vaccines.

Last week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus criticized nations that hoard vaccines, warning the strategy will worsen the pandemic. During a last-ditch involve support before Monday's deadline, he wrote letters to members urging their participation.

The EU Commission is "fully committed" to the success of COVAX while it enters into parallel talks with vaccine manufacturers for supplies for the bloc, a spokeswoman told Reuters.

Britain said it had been supporting COVAX to make sure equal access to vaccines, including funding, while doing its own bilateral supply deals.

White House didn't immediately discuss things. The us didn't participate within the launch of the programmer in April or a fundraising event in May.

The EU's aggressive dealmaking for vaccine supplies and tepid statements about COVAX have especially undermined the initiative, which is co-led’ by the WHO, the GAVI vaccines alliance and therefore the CEPI Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

The European Commission is probably going to pledge cash for COVAX but it's also securing its own supply deals for member states, deeming COVAX too slow and expensive.

Brussels has told countries they will help fund COVAX, but can't seek to shop for vaccines via both schemes, a Commission spokesman said. Forced to settle on , some countries have pulled out of COVAX entirely.

The Czech Republic and Portugal were listed’ as early backers, but government support appears to possess cooled after joining the EU vaccine procurement programmer.

Prague has opted for the EU programmer instead.

Portugal has asked for an initial delivery of 6.9 million doses of vaccine when the EU programme becomes available, the govt has said.

Asked if it might participate in COVAX, a spokesman for the country's drug regulator INFARMED said it might coordinate its participation within the programme with other European nations.

Other WHO members, which are already major donors to existing global vaccine programmes unrelated to COVID-19, are still on the fence too.

Brazil, with the world's second worst coronavirus outbreak outside the us, has not yet decided whether to participate, a health ministry spokeswoman said.

In Japan, Deputy Health Minister Hisashi Inatsu said he would really like to enter discussions about participating, but the govt has not said if it'll submit a politician expression of interest by Monday.

Like many wealthy nations, Japan has ordered its own supply of shots, with almost 250 many doses of potential vaccines booked from AstraZeneca , Pfizer and BioNTech .

RADICAL DEPARTURE

Officials say both COVAX and government deals can run in parallel, but that's a radical departure from the first plan outlined within the spring.

In acting alone, countries will create "a few winners and lots of losers", Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, warned on Monday.

It also means poorer or less powerful countries may attend the rear of the queue for vaccines that would help them control the pandemic.

"The risk is that access to COVID-19 vaccines are going to be defined by purchasing power and therefore the ability to sign advance purchase deals instead of the medical needs or the shifting epidemiological situations," said Dimitri Eynikel, EU representative on medicines and vaccines for Doctors borderless .

The initiative is all the more significant for the WHO as scrutiny grows on its handling of the pandemic. The results of the primary round will highlight the challenge of tackling a worldwide crisis with competing individual interests.

One senior European government official explained the dilemma facing wealthy nations: the way to support a vaccine for developing countries when there might not be enough for your own population. Diverting resources abroad "is difficult to sell at home", he said.

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