The Multilateral Leaders Taskforce (MLT) on COVID-19 has raised alarm over vaccine inequity among developed and developing countries, noting that many African countries cannot meet herd immunity timelines by the close of the year.
The Taskforce has observed that there are two troubling trends regarding the global rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, with low-income countries being dealt with acute shortage, making them unable to meet the targeted 40% coverage by the end of the year.
On the other hand, many high-income countries have been able to access vaccines and vaccinated their population against the pandemic, putting them in a position to reach the global target coverage.
The Task Force comprises the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization. Partners include governments, regional development banks, members of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and its COVAX Facility, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Force, pharmaceutical firms, and others in the private sector
Specifically, the task force has noted that “whereas less than 2% of adults are fully vaccinated in most low-income countries, almost 50% are fully vaccinated in high-income countries.”
“These countries, the majority of which are in Africa, simply cannot access sufficient vaccine to meet even the global goals of 10% coverage in all countries by September and 40% by end 2021, let alone the African Union’s goal of 70% in 2022,” a statement issued by the task force on August 27.
“This crisis of vaccine inequity is driving a dangerous divergence in COVID-19 survival rates and in the global economy,” the task force highlighted.
To this end, the task force has held a meeting to tackle obstacles to rapidly scale up vaccines in low- and lower-middle-income countries, particularly in Africa.
The meeting was held together with the leaders of the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
At the end of the meeting, the taskforce said, effectively tackling the acute vaccine supply shortage in low- and lower-middle-income countries, and fully enabling AVAT and COVAX, required urgent cooperation of vaccine manufacturers, vaccine-producing countries, and countries that have already achieved high vaccination rates.
The taskforce has therefore called on all countries to eliminate export restrictions and any other trade barriers on Covid-19 vaccines and the inputs involved in their production to enable access to the vaccines by African countries.
The taskforce also appealed to countries that have contracted high volumes of vaccines to swap near-term delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT, and urged vaccine manufacturers to immediately prioritise and fulfil their contracts to COVAX and AVAT, and provide regular, clear supply forecasts.
They also urged G7 and all dose-sharing countries to fulfil their pledges urgently, with enhanced pipeline visibility, product shelf life and support for ancillary supplies, as barely 10% of nearly 900 million committed doses have so far been shipped.
Meanwhile, MLT has indicated that they have intensified its work with COVAX and AVAT to tackle persistent vaccine delivery, manufacturing and trade issues, notably in Africa.
In addition, it is mobilising grants and concessional financing for these purposes, while exploring other financing mechanisms to cover future vaccine needs as requested by AVAT.
While advocating for better supply forecasts and investments to increase country preparedness and absorptive capacity, MLT said, “the time for action is now. The course of the pandemic and the health of the world are at stake.”
Accordingly, the taskforce has pledged that it would continue to enhance its data to identify gaps and improve transparency in the supply and use of all COVID-19 tools.