Boost for vaccine doses planned for poor as virus rages on
Published : Tuesday, 29 September, 2020 at 9:55 PM Count : 203
Up to 100 million additional doses of any eventual Covid-19 vaccines will be secured for delivery to poorer countries in 2021, health groups announced Tuesday, as the virus showed no sign of receding after claiming more than one million lives around the world.
The announcement doubles the number of doses already secured from the Serum Institute of India by the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, following an initial agreement last month.
The public-private health partnership stressed that the eventual total is “potentially several times” greater, and said the price would be capped at $3 per dose.
“No country, rich or poor, should be left at the back of the queue when it comes to Covid-19 vaccines; this collaboration brings us another step closer to achieving this goal,” Gavi chief Seth Berkley said in a statement.
As nine vaccine candidates are in last-stage trials, the World Health Organization is stepping up efforts to provide faster and cheaper testing to poorer countries.
The WHO said Monday that some 120 million rapid tests for Covid-19 will be made available to low- and middle-income countries at $5 each under a $600 million scheme — as long as funding can be secured.
The kits — faster, cheaper and easier to administer than regular standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests, but also less reliable — will be rolled out across 133 countries in the next six months.
“This will enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out PCR tests,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference.
Experts have for months been calling for widespread adoption of this low-cost technology so that people can test themselves several times a week.
In the US, President Donald Trump said 150 million tests would be distributed that deliver results in 15 to 30 minutes.
Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina said the testing drive “is terrific and is a great start”.
But the amount being distributed by the US government was “simply not sufficient” and production should be multiplied ten- or 20-fold, he added.