Poor countries, largely forgotten in the vaccine war?

Major vaccine producers and buyers have promised to send millions of doses to poor countries. In fact, deliveries are becoming rare or sometimes completely blocked.

“Ten million doses is not very high and it is far from adequate, but it is a start.” Last Friday, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) appealed for the vaccine’s donation, saying “36 countries are still waiting for the vaccine to start vaccinating health workers and the elderly.”

A situation far from announcements at the end of 2020, when 92 poor countries were to be offered 20% vaccine orders (1.23 billion). Since then, vaccine wars, tensions with laboratories have shut down the machine, and “vaccine nationalism” has taken precedence.

According to the chairman of the European Commission, the European Union has so far exported from the production sites at 77 million doses of the continent of vaccines from 33 countries between December 1, 2020 and March 25, 2021. The total was actually shipped to the United Kingdom, to the rest of the rich countries (Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia …) and to some extent to Mexico and Chile, according to the Commission’s description.

But we also have to add the 31 million dosages sent to the Kovacs program, which primarily centralizes orders from the poorest countries for Africa.

Across the Atlantic, the US announced its intention last week to send 4 million doses to Mexico (2.5 million) and Canada (1.5 million). “Our priority remains vaccination of the American population,” yet White House spokesman Jane Saki.

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Especially since the country has been sitting on millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine (still not authorized in the United States), but which may be in the 70 or so countries that have already approved it. At the moment, Joe Biden’s administration forbids exporting these dosages.

India prohibits exports

For the United Kingdom, there is still no export abroad, while the country has two production sites in Oxford and Keele. Several national NGOs have also called for Boris Johnson to allow the country to begin its first delivery to countries in difficulty. A spokesman said, “The Prime Minister has confirmed that the UK will share any additional surplus Kovacs coronavirus virus vaccines in the future.”

In fact, it is on the other side of the planet that the main part is played outside. We find an Indian city, 150 km from Bombay, the largest vaccine factory in the world, the Serum Institute of India, which is capable of producing 2.5 billion doses per year. In this case, the site produces a large proportion of AstraZeneca vaccines, which are much easier to deploy in poor countries because they are stored in refrigerators rather than freezing freezers.

The country is believed to be the cornerstone of the Kovacs program (500 million doses are planned per year), yet last week it was decided to block exports. Faced with the outbreak of the epidemic, the Indian government now wants to prioritize national needs.

China and Russia took over

India exported 60 million doses to the rest of the world. Like Europe, the country has therefore exported more than it injected: 59 million doses to date. One of the country’s largest biotechnology companies told the Financial Times, “India has been charitable by exporting 60 million doses so far. It’s time to vaccinate Indians.”

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On Monday, US laboratory Johnson & Johnson nevertheless intended to send 400 million doses of the vaccine to Africa with delivery, which will begin in the third quarter of 2021 and spread throughout 2022. Sanofi vaccine arrival, fall, delivery should also be allowed to increase.

And this vaccine war highlights two other players: China and Russia, who have begun sending their millions of “homemade” vaccines, especially to Africa.

Thomas Leroy BFM Business Journalist

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