New Delhi (Times Of Ocean)- The company behind a COVID19 vaccine hailed as a panacea for the developing world has sent tens of millions of doses to wealthy nations, but not to the U.N.-backed effort to supply poorer countries, another sign of inequity in the response to the pandemic.
COVAX planned to receive 250 million doses from Novavax by March, but the UN agency in charge of deliveries says the shipments will not begin until April or May.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way. CEPI, one of the organizations leading COVAX, gave Novavax $388 million to fast-track the vaccine’s development, aimed at making the shot available in poorer countries as the pandemic was exploding two years ago.”
According to CEPI spokesman Bjorg Dystvold Nilsson, COVAX was guaranteed the “right of first refusal” to the first dose of Novavax, but the deal only applied to factories in the Czech Republic, South Korea and Spain.
Other factories are not included in the deal, and their shots go elsewhere.
Millions of Novavax doses have been manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker. Over 28.9 million of those doses were sent to the Netherlands in January and February, while Australia received about 6 million doses. Approximately 9 million doses were also delivered to Indonesia in December.
There were also thousands of Novavax doses shipped to other EU countries from a Netherlands factory.
“Whatever the reason, a vaccine that was believed to be highly suitable for poor countries is now in large part going to rich countries,” said Zain Rizvi, a drug policy expert at the U.S. advocacy group Public Citizen. “It’s tragic that in year three of the pandemic, we still cannot get the resources, attention and political will to solve vaccine inequity.”
COVAX has repeatedly been plagued by supply problems and has missed numerous deadlines to share doses.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus dubbed the gap in vaccine supplies between rich and poor countries a “catastrophic moral failure” last year.
Vaccine availability has been improving in poorer regions recently, but logistical issues persist.
Only 14% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of COVID19 vaccine, according to data from Oxford University. More than 680 million doses of vaccines provided by COVAX remain unused or have expired, according to government data.