BRUSSELS, June 23 (Reuters) – Shunned by rich countries and failing to meet the needs of the poorest, a programme co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) for fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is planning a shake-up, internal documents seen by Reuters show.
The COVAX programme is far short of its target of delivering 2 billion doses by the end of the year, but does expect a big increase in supplies by early 2022, and wants to make sure that those, at least, reach the countries in direst need.
COVAX’s initial lofty ambitions to act as a clearing house for the world’s vaccines, collecting from the manufacturers in the most developed countries and quickly distributing to those in the most urgent need, have fallen flat.
So far, it has distributed a mere 90 million vaccines. While densely populated lower-income countries act as incubators for new and more dangerous strains of the coronavirus, some of the poorest countries have vaccinated less than 1% of their populations, according to estimates from Gavi, a global vaccine alliance that runs the scheme with the WHO.
The overhaul is meant to reduce COVAX’s financial risks, increase its focus on the countries most in need and reduce the participation of richer countries as both donors and recipients, according to a paper prepared by Gavi.