WHO says close to Pfizer deal that would give poorer nations access
- Post By : Kumar Jeetendra
- Source: Reuters
- Date: 19 Jan,2021
The World Health Organization is in advanced negotiations with Pfizer to include the company’s COVID-19 shot in the body’s vaccine-sharing strategy, which would speed vaccine deliveries to poorer countries, a senior WHO official said on Monday.
The COVAX scheme — headed by the WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance — is due to begin rolling out vaccines to poor and middle-income nations in February, with two of 3 billion doses expected to be delivered this year.
“We are in… detailed discussions with Pfizer. We believe very soon we’ll have access to that product,” WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward told the WHO’s executive board meeting, adding that it would then seem to include others.
COVAX aims to deliver 135 million doses of all shots it has deals for to 92 lower and middle income countries in the programme by the end of March, he said.
So far, over half of those 50 million inoculations given globally in 50 countries have been done in the United States and China, according to Aylward. None have yet been awarded in Africa, he said.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday blamed vaccine nationalism for the inequity, saying the world was on the brink of”catastrophic moral failure”.
The WHO already has deals with several suppliers, such as AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India.
Austria’s Clemens Martin Auer, one of the 34 WHO board members, said at Monday’s meeting COVAX was slow in securing deals and called its failure to procure mRNA vaccines, like that produced by Pfizer and BioNTech,”a significant mistake”.
Aylward justified the WHO stance saying that they were expensive and its cold-chain requirements were difficult for many countries to manage.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be stored in ultra-low temperatures of about -70 degrees Celsius before being shipped to distribution centers in cool boxes full of dry ice.
Up to now, 44 countries out of the 50 that have already started vaccinations have used the shooter, WHO data shows.
The WHO also expects to procure Pfizer shots via donations, rather than some countries being”double-served”, Aylward said.
“We’d be very keen to try and translate plenty of the obligations and interest in dose-sharing into actual deals, particularly with countries that have large bilateral bargains on key products,” he said, without naming countries.