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WHO: ‘Huge number’ of countries forced to suspend COVID-19 vaccine drive due to shortages

By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: World Health Organization

The World Health Organization said a “huge number” of countries are forced to suspend the vaccination rollout against COVID-19, citing lack of doses delivered.

"We have a huge number of countries that have had to suspend their rollout of their second doses of vaccine," WHO frontman for COVAX global vaccine sharing platform Bruce Aylward said.

"If I remember correctly, it's over 30 or 40 countries that could have been targeted for second doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, for example, who will not be able to do that," Aylward added.

He said that the countries under the Indian subcontinent, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East were greatly affected by the crisis.

Moreover, countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka were “particularly hit hard” and experiencing "a severe wave of disease."

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine supplier and a backbone of COVAX Facility has been restricted for exports as India is currently battling the upsurge of COVID-19 cases.

"We are now urgently trying to work with AstraZeneca itself, as well as SII, the government in India to restart those shipments so that we can get those second doses into those populations because we are running to a longer interval than we would have liked in that regard," said Aylward.

"Only countries right now that have got the financial resources, who are producing the products, actually have access to vaccines,” he added.

Last Monday, the WHO warned the leaders of the world’s powerful economies that the COVID-19 is accelerating faster than the vaccines. Following the warning, the G7 has committed to providing one billion doses for poorer countries.

The COVAX vaccine sharing scheme has already delivered 88 million vaccine doses to over 131 participants as of June 17, according to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.

As of June 18, there are 178,607,062 COVID-19 infections, 163,131,206 recoveries, and 3,867,058 deaths worldwide, according to WorldOMeters.

Meanwhile, 1,664,696,255 individuals have received the first dose while 756,308,804 have completed two doses, globally.