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COVID-19 vaccines task force urges upscaling production for developing countries

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FILE PHOTO: A nurse prepares to administer the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine under the COVAX scheme at the Eka Kotebe General Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 13, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

The Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccines, Therapeutics and Diagnostics for Developing Countries, has urged COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to redouble their efforts in scaling up production of vaccines, specifically for these countries.

Established by the heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group, World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Trade Organisation (WTO), the taskforce made the appeal in a statement on Saturday, in Washington DC.

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The group said this was to ensure that the supply of doses to COVAX, the acronym for COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, and low and low-middle income countries, took precedence over the promotion of boosters and other activities.

It noted that less than five per cent of vaccines that were pre-purchased by or for low-income countries had been delivered, while its common target was for at least 40 per cent of people in low and low-middle income countries to be vaccinated by the end of 2021.

“We estimate that less than 20 per cent of the necessary vaccines is currently scheduled for delivery to these countries, whether through COVAX, AVAT, or bilateral deals and dose-sharing agreements.

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“ We reiterate the urgency of providing access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to people throughout the developing world.

“In the area of vaccines, a key constraint is the acute and alarming shortage in the supply of doses to low and low-middle income countries, especially for the rest of 2021.

“We call on countries with advanced COVID-19 vaccination programs to release, as soon as possible, as much of their contracted vaccine doses and options as possible to COVAX, AVAT and low and low-middle income countries.”

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It also said it was critical to improve clarity and transparency around the evolving vaccine market, expected production volumes, delivery schedules and pre-purchase options.

The group called on manufacturers to also accelerate delivery to developing countries and for advanced economies to scale-up near-term deliveries to developing countries.

The task force also said it was concerned that vaccine delivery schedules and contracts for COVAX, AVAT and low and low-middle income countries were either delayed or too slow.

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After its second meeting, the taskforce had launched a new website that includes, the first phase of a global database and country dashboards on vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to guide their work and advocacy.

It added that it welcomed the recent announcement by COVAX and the World Bank to accelerate vaccine supplies for developing countries, through a new financing mechanism.

It also applauded the partnership between the World Bank and AVAT, adding that World Bank financing was now available to support the purchase and deployment of doses secured by both AVAT and COVAX.

The task force was established to identify and resolve finance and trade impediments to vaccine, diagnostics, therapeutic production and deliveries.

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