GAVI warns world 'cannot afford' to hoard Covid-19 vaccines, urges excess doses to be donated now

The world “cannot afford to let one dose go idle” of the Covid-19 vaccine as the virus continues to rage and mutate, GAVI says.

More than 180 nations have signed up to the pact, which was started with the idea that none of us will be safe until all of us are safe.

The global vaccine alliance which co-leads the COVAX initiative is appealing to higher income countries which have already bought vaccines to not waste any excess vaccines.

This comes after warnings by NGOs that countries in the Pacific might not receive Covid vaccines until 2023 or beyond.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent say only 20 per cent of Covid vaccines will reach the islands this year and into early 2022.

“But if we are talking about the majority of the population being vaccinated in the Pacific it’s 2023 to 2024 or beyond,” says Dr Abhishek Rimal, Asia Pacific emergency health coordinator for the organisation.

“We have a limited number of doses of Covid-19 vaccines to give a country.

“The country suffering the most, the Covid vaccine goes there. But even though Covid is not in the Pacific, they’re still suffering from the dying livelihood, the dying tourism industry.”

Rimal says bilateral deals and the top wealthy countries buying up 74 per cent of available vaccines is fuelling a vaccine shortage.

“Initially when the whole Covax facility was set up and everyone rallied their energy behind it because it was a fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine," says Rimal.

“But once the vaccine was available the approval from different regulatory authorities there was some back channelling, there were some bilateral deals…that put Covax on the back foot.”

A Gavi spokesperson told 1 NEWS with supply constraints continuing to cause challenges for many countries across the world it’s “imperative that Covax is able to secure the funding”.

“It is also why countries with excess doses must start sharing them with Covax now so that we can put them to the best use possible protecting those most at risk.

“At this stage of the pandemic, with the virus raging out of control in some parts of the world and new mutations emerging, we cannot afford to let one dose go idle.”

Gavi says Covax needs more funding to go towards procuring 1.8 billion doses it needs for the 92 lower income countries eligible for donor-funded vaccines.

With only 17 per cent of lower income countries having received doses of the Covid vaccine, The World Health Organization is also pleading with higher income countries to donate vaccines.

“The shocking disparity in access to Covid-19 tools is a huge risk to ending the pandemic,” Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted overnight.

He also urged for more money to be donated and an increase of production of vaccines through voluntary licensing, sharing technology and waiving IP rights.