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“To beat the pandemic this year, it is also a priority to reinforce tests and therapies”

The massive application of vaccines against COVID-19 It is the main tool to end the pandemic. This has been said since the beginning of the global health crisis by various experts and international organizations.

Today, more than two years after the emergence of the coronavirus, some countries are moving towards a reestablishment of the previous normality; others are still trying to access the necessary doses to protect their population. In the first group are the rich and middle-income countries and, in the other, those that .

mechanism like Covax Facility, the alliance of public and private entities to facilitate the arrival of vaccines to countries with less access, have had difficulties in achieving their objectives. Its initial goal was the delivery of 2,000 million doses of vaccines worldwide in 2021.

Right now, according to the One World in Data platform, only 11.4% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. Peru, meanwhile, exceeds 72% of the population over five years of age immunized against COVID-19 and more than 61 million doses have been applied. Total,

Trade spoke with José Manuel Durão Barroso, president of the board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), one of the organizations led by Covax, about the difficulties and successes faced by the mechanism also promoted by the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Each country is different and must set its own goals [sobre la vacunación]”, says the also former president of the European Commission and former prime minister of Portugal.

—Covax set itself the goal of reaching the most vulnerable with anticovid vaccines in 2021. What elements prevented reaching the goal?

Within a year of making its first delivery, Covax has been able to ship Nearly 90% of these vaccines were delivered directly to 91 low-income economies that qualify for donor-funded doses through Covax. Our goal is to build on this progress in 2022 by helping countries meet their national vaccination targets.

Having achieved this impact, it is possible to say that COVAX is a multilateral solution that not only works, but works at scale during 2021 when it came to securing supply. The fact that these challenges have been overcome and that Covax is now able to meet demand from the countries it serves and help countries expand its delivery capacity speaks to the resilience it has shown since it was established in 2020.

—Despite the drawbacks, Covax managed to distribute millions of vaccines. What lessons does the work carried out during 2021 leave?

In 2022, Covax must remain flexible and responsive to the uncertainties of the pandemic: COVID-19 cases may decline in some parts of the world, but if there is one thing that COVID-19 has shown us, it is that it will continue to pose new challenges.

Covax’s top priority is to work hand in hand with countries to deploy vaccines as quickly and effectively as possible. Increasing coverage rates in as short a period of time as we are seeking represents an unprecedented challenge for any country, especially countries with limited resources that have diverse health priorities. Covax partners are providing tailored support to help these struggling health systems not only ensure COVID-19 vaccines are delivered, but also protect other life-saving immunization campaigns from being interrupted.

Peru received its first batch of Pfizer vaccines from the Covax Facility in December 2021. (Photo: Andina)

Part of our strategy to maintain flexibility to respond to new challenges is to ensure we have the resources to purchase additional vaccines, make additional investments in delivery, and pay for the transportation of more donated doses if needed.

To ensure resources are available for these goals, Gavi and Covax partners launched a campaign in January to raise at least $5.2 billion in additional seed funding for Gavi COVAX AMC by the end of March 2022.

—Some countries negotiated directly and obtained vaccines from pharmaceutical companies and also from Covax. What should be done so that the vaccines reach those countries that have not immunized even 10% of their population, mainly in Africa?

If we want to beat the pandemic in 2022, as far as possible, not only in terms of vaccination, but also in other vital measures like tests and therapies.

By 2022, through signed dose order commitments and promised donations, Covax could achieve an average coverage rate of 45%, based on a two-dose vaccine regimen, among AMC’s 91 participants. These doses will be used in support of the national goals and plans of each country and as a complement to other sources of vaccines, such as regional initiatives, such as AVAT of the African Union and bilateral agreements. As I already mentioned, additional doses will be needed if boosters are required, as well as if variant-adapted vaccines are required.

-The new goal of the WHO is to reach 70% vaccination by July, what will be the role of Covax to achieve it? Will you continue betting on donations? Is patent release an alternative?

It is not about reaching an international goal: What we want to do is help all governments to reach these goals. Of course, it is important to note that each country has its own vaccination strategy based on the specific nature of its economy and demographics. This is why a one-size-fits-all strategy or number doesn’t work. However, what we need to do to help countries meet their targets is also to work with countries to expand their delivery capacity so that more people can be vaccinated.

The image of the shipment of covid vaccines from the Covax mechanism landed in Sudan in early October 2021. (AFP)

—Peru, unlike other countries such as the US and some in Europe, managed to immunize more than 80% of its adult population in less time than the powers with greater access to doses. Is there a similar experience in other countries? To what conditions or elements should this be attributed?

I would not like to comment on individual national vaccination strategies or other aspects of the covid response; however, I can congratulate Peru on the impressive achievement of reaching such a significant coverage milestone. I would also like to mention that while the world’s highest income countries have fully vaccinated 72% of their populations, upper middle income countries (including Peru) This is attributed to the relative success of the campaigns of vaccination, but this should certainly be seen as a source of pride for Peru.

Source: Elcomercio

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