The World Health Organization (WHO) said more than 30 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have already been administered in 47 mostly high-income countries.
WHO said this fact exposes glaring inequalities in access to this life-saving tool.
This revelation was made on January 15 as more than 2,800 scientists from 130 countries gathered in a virtual forum hosted by WHO to identify knowledge gaps and set research priorities for vaccines against COVID-19.
They discussed the safety and efficacy of existing vaccines and new candidates, ways to optimize limited supply, and the need for additional safety studies.
“The development and approval of several safe and effective vaccines less than a year after this virus was isolated and sequenced is an astounding scientific accomplishment,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General, in his opening remarks.
“The approval of the first few vaccines does not mean the job is done. Far from it. More vaccines are in the pipeline, which must be evaluated to ensure we have enough doses to vaccinate everyone,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.
Experts agreed the need for critical research on administering vaccines in different target populations, as well as on vaccination delivery strategies and schedules. This includes trials, modelling and observational studies — all of which would help to inform policy.
They discussed the impact of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants on the efficacy of vaccines, the impact of vaccines on transmission of infection, and the need to develop the next generation of vaccine platforms.
The BVI and other British Overseas Territories have been able to secure thousands of vaccine doses – free of cost – from the United Kingdom.
However, independent Caribbean countries that don’t have the safety net of a mother country are not as lucky. Recently, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said its members were ill-equipped to compete with developed countries for acquisition of adequate quantities of the vaccination.
CARICOM called on WHO to establish an arrangement under which access to the vaccination is not based on wealth and affluence, but on the recognition that COVID-19 represents a global challenge — a circumstance that ought to remove such discriminatory factors as affordability from the distribution equation.
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