World news – COVAX: What is the UN vaccination plan for poor countries and why is it important?

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The Associated Press
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Canada could receive millions of doses from COVAX, an initiative to ensure fair access to doses, especially for developing countries.

GENEVA –
It is almost start time for COVAX, the United Nations’ unprecedented program to deploy COVID-19 vaccines to hundreds of millions of people in need around the world.

More than two months after countries like the United Kingdom and the United States began immunizing their most vulnerable people, the UN health agency on Monday gave its approval for a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca that could release hundreds of Millions of doses should trigger from COVAX.

COVAX has missed its own goal of starting vaccination in poor countries, while vaccination has been introduced in rich countries, and numerous developing countries have signed their own contracts to buy vaccines for fear that the program will not be successful.

The World Health Organization and its partners hope that COVAX can finally begin shipping vaccines later this month.

It is a collaborative program designed to ensure that low and middle income countries have fair access to COVID-19 vaccines. Some buy them, others get them for free thanks to donor countries and charities.

COVAX hopes to have around 336 million cans ready by the end of June and around 2 billion cans by the end of the year.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week that over 130 million vaccine doses have been used worldwide – three quarters of them in just ten countries. Nearly 130 countries with 2.5 billion people have not given a single dose, he said.

Unlike most rich countries, many developing countries do not have the resources to assess whether vaccines should be approved. They rely on WHO to determine if vaccines are safe, effective, and properly manufactured.

The most impactful moment yet for COVAX is the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Monday. The program has bought hundreds of millions of cans, although there is no guarantee when countries will receive them. The Serum Institute of India, which will produce most of them, previously announced that the provision of recordings for COVAX would be « calibrated » in accordance with India’s own domestic and other needs.

Recently, however, questions about the use of the vaccine have surfaced as the virus variant first identified in South Africa becomes increasingly common. Early studies suggest that the AstraZeneca vaccine may be less effective against this variant, and the South African government has delayed plans to launch its own vaccine supply. WHO said last week that the AstraZeneca shot should continue to be used in countries where variants have been detected – but the head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned countries in the region to prioritize other vaccines instead / p>
Gian Gandhi, the UNICEF supply coordinator for COVAX, said confirmation of the doses that the United States Children’s Agency can use will come once WHO approves the AstraZeneca vaccine.

WHO takes willingness and need into account and has given priority to dosing for healthcare workers and vulnerable people such as the elderly.

The stakes « will vary from country to country, » said Gandhi. « In some cases the time frame can be in the range of days and weeks, in others it can be several weeks. »

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