It seems that the long-awaited rescue is approaching as countries such as Britain, the United States and Russia begin mass vaccinations against the emerging corona virus, which causes Covid-19 disease.
In the countries of the European Union, a decision is expected to be taken on the approval of the first Corona vaccine in December. And while people there are getting closer and closer to getting vaccines, this impending paradigm shift is still far from many poor countries.
It was evident from early on that many developing countries could not survive on their own in the vaccine market. That is why the World Health Organization, in cooperation with coalitions for epidemiological preparedness innovations such as Gavi and Cepi, established, months ago, the “Covax” initiative with the aim of ensuring a fair distribution of vaccines.
So far, dozens of countries have joined this initiative, some of which are self-financing the vaccine doses, and others need financial support. The Kovacs initiative promises to provide enough doses to vaccinate up to 20% of every country’s population.
The program currently includes 9 candidate vaccines, among them the two promising vaccines for “AstraZeneca” and “Moderna”, but none of them are “Pfizer-BioNTech”, according to the German news agency.
The European Union has also pledged its support for the “Kovacs” initiative and has contributed so far to 400 million euros (about 487 million dollars). According to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the fair distribution of vaccination doses is an important project.
The German politician who studied medicine is never tired of asserting that one can only be safe when everyone is safe, and said, “This means that everyone has access to tests, treatments and vaccines.”
Despite the continuing emphasis on global solidarity, the European Union has also purchased, with exclusive contracts, vaccination doses from 6 companies. The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recently warned against making obtaining vaccines a national issue through such advance purchases.
With these contracts, the European Union guarantees itself nearly two billion doses of the vaccine. Once approved for a vaccine, all countries will be able to receive the doses at the same time, and distribution will be based on population.
However, it is up to the states themselves to decide how many doses they will keep for themselves and how many doses they will donate to low- and middle-income countries. Therefore the amount of solidarity in the distribution remains uncertain.
The Kovacs initiative also plans to collect two billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021, but the necessary funding has not yet been made. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Head for Africa, says that the initiative has so far raised about $ 5.5 billion, but that another 4.2 billion will be needed.
Despite the lack of funds, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes the initiative will make rapid progress. She recently said, “I think the most important thing now is for Kovacs to conduct negotiations with the potential vaccine manufacturers … We will talk to Jaffe now about when to start.” These negotiations. This worries me right now, as nothing has been done about it yet. “
According to a spokeswoman for the “Gavi” coalition, hundreds of millions of vaccine doses have already been secured, adding that a statement of intent has recently been signed to provide another 200 million doses, indicating that after that, more agreements will be announced in due course.
But the Kovacs initiative alone is not enough to defeat the Corona virus in developing countries, as John Nkengasung, head of the Africa Disease Control and Prevention Center, an organization affiliated with the African Union, said that the continent seeks to vaccinate 60% of its population in order to achieve herd immunity . In contrast, the initiative only provides doses of the vaccine for 20% of the total population.
Therefore, according to Nkengasung, the Africa CDC is trying to secure additional funds from the World Bank and the African Export-Import Bank, in order to purchase additional vaccination doses.
However, the biggest challenge will be logistics. For example, the Pfizer vaccine should be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius. “These conditions make it very difficult for our continent to get vaccinations quickly,” Nkengasung said, adding that the AstraZeneca vaccine is more attractive to Africa because of the simpler cooling conditions, although it is less effective. Another difficulty is reaching people in remote villages and conflict areas.
Therefore, this health official calls for patience. “We have to be realistic that we will not really get vaccines for Africa before the middle of next year,” he said.
So much is at stake in Africa. Failure to vaccinate a large portion of the population quickly enough can have dire long-term consequences.
“The last thing we want is for Covid-19 to become an endemic disease in the continent,” Nkengasung says, adding that this “will be a threat not only to our continent, but to the entire world.”