'Vaccine delivery to poor nations to start early 2021'

Covid-19 vaccine delivery to poor countries to start in early 2021: WHO

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo.

The World Health Organization and partners said Friday that the Covax facility, created to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines worldwide, expected to begin delivering jabs early next year.

The UN health agency, the Gavi vaccine alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) announced they had now secured nearly two billion doses of various vaccine candidates still under development on behalf of the 190 countries taking part in Covax.

"The arrangements announced today will enable all participating economies to have access to doses in the first half of 2021, with first deliveries anticipated to begin in the first quarter of 2021," the statement said.

They stressed though that the deliveries remained "contingent upon regulatory approvals and countries' readiness for delivery."

The vaccine developers that have so far committed hundreds of millions of doses each are: AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novovax and Sanofi/GSK. None of these have so far received authorisation for use.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the news, telling a virtual press conference that "the light at the end of the tunnel has grown a little bit brighter."

CEPI chief Richard Hatchett agreed, saying massive research and development efforts were paying off.

"We now have safe and effective vaccines that can protect against Covid-19 and a clear pathway to securing two billion doses for the populations at greatest risk all around the world," he said.

Gavi chief Seth Berkley meanwhile celebrated the "unprecedented speed and scale" of the project.

"Securing access to doses of a new vaccine for both higher-income and lower-income countries, at roughly the same time and during a pandemic, is a feat the world has never achieved before," he said.