File Photo: A woman receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cairo, Egypt taken on March 4, 2021. REUTERS
The heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group (WBG), World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organisation (WTO) met with the CEOs of leading vaccine manufacturing companies to discuss strategies to improve the access to COVID-19 vaccines, especially in low- and lower middle-income countries and in Africa.
The heads of those four organizations are members of the global task force to accelerate vaccine production and distribution.
During the meeting, the task force expressed concerns that without urgent steps the world is unlikely to achieve the target of vaccinating at least 40 percent of the population globally by end of 2021, which is a critical milestone to end the pandemic and for global economic recovery.
The task force members noted that, despite adequate total global vaccine production in the aggregate, the doses are not reaching low- and lower middle-income countries in sufficient amounts, resulting in a crisis of vaccine inequity.
It urged countries that have contracted high amounts of vaccine doses, and vaccine manufacturers, to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine supplies to COVAX and AVAT, the two multilateral mechanisms that are crucial for equitable distribution of vaccines.
Task force members welcomed the willingness of the CEOs to work collectively with them to end vaccine inequity and their readiness to form a technical working group with the task force to exchange and coordinate information on vaccine production and deliveries.
The task force stressed that if the 40 percent coverage threshold is to be reached in all countries by the end of 2021, governments and vaccine manufacturers have to take a number of actions.
These procedures include releasing doses to low- and lower middle-income countries, especially from countries with high vaccination rates have collectively pre-purchased over two billion doses in excess of what is required to fully vaccinate their populations.
These actions also include ensuring that doses reach countries that need them the most, particularly low- and lower middle-income countries.
In this regard, the task force called on vaccine manufacturers to share details on month-by-month delivery schedules for all vaccine shipments, especially for COVAX and AVAT.
Moreover, the task force called on the countries urgently to address export restrictions, high tariffs and customs bottlenecks on COVID-19 vaccines and the raw materials and supplies required for the production and timely distribution of vaccines.