A co-founder of the global scheme to provide vaccines for poor people said Thursday India was delaying exports of much-needed jabs, as EU leaders met for crisis talks in Brussels to try to solve supply issues on the badly-hit continent.
The fracas around vaccines threatens to slow a global immunisation drive that is seen as the way out of the pandemic, as third waves sweep several countries and force governments to reimpose tough anti-virus restrictions.
AstraZeneca is also one of the main vaccines used in the Covax project, which supplies poorer countries with jabs, and is facing export delays in India where it is produced by the Serum Institute.
A Gavi spokesman said the licence delays “are due to the increased demand of Covid-19 vaccines in India”.
“Covax is in talks with the government of India with a view to ensuring deliveries as quickly as possible,” the Gavi spokesman said, without giving further details.
The AstraZeneca shot was hailed as a breakthrough because it is cheaper and easier to store and transport compared with other vaccines.
EU leaders were meeting via videoconference on Thursday to discuss AstraZeneca supplies, as well as new vaccine export rules that will weigh how needy countries are in terms of infection rates, how many jabs they have, and how readily they export doses to the bloc.
“Accelerating the production, delivery and deployment of vaccines remains essential and urgent to overcome the crisis. Efforts to this end must be further intensified,” the draft said.
And Ukraine on Thursday registered a record number of coronavirus deaths for the third straight day, as new infections also reached a record high.
Mass vaccination programmes are considered vital to ending the pandemic, which has claimed more than 2.7 million lives around the world, hammered the global economy and left much of humanity under punishing restrictions.
“There was no joy. Now it’s very good. We are happy.”
Brazil’s Covid-19 death toll passed 300,000 on Wednesday, the second-highest number of fatalities in the world, with its hospitals pushed to the brink.
– ‘Bump in the road’ –
The pharma giant was forced to review its US trials and then slightly revise down the jab’s efficacy from 79 percent to 76 percent, after an American agency raised concerns about outdated information.
Where the EU vaccine rollout has stuttered, there has been huge progress elsewhere.
And in the United States — the world’s worst-hit nation — around 70 percent of Americans aged 65 or over have received at least one dose.
The torch relay for the Games got off to a low-key start Thursday and organisers hope it will build excitement.
“There would have been more excitement if there wasn’t coronavirus.”