Wealthy nations far short of COVID vaccine donation target

Two people who led an independent review of the world's response to COVID-19 raised deep concerns today about the slow pace of vaccine donations by high-income countries to lower-income countries.

In other developments, the World Health Organization (WHO) today released a list of 24 new tools—such solar-powered oxygen concentrators—that can help battle current and future pandemic threats.

Vaccine deliveries far short of target

In May, an independent panel tasked by the World Health Assembly to review the global pandemic response and recommend steps for improving it had a blistering assessment of the state of pandemic preparedness: that the current system is unfit for preventing another newly emerged pathogen from evolving into a pandemic.

Their criticisms took aim at the WHO for waiting too long to declare a public health emergency and at countries for wasting February 2020 by not launching control measures. The 11-member group was led by Helen Clark, New Zealand's former prime minister, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia's former president.

Among the panel's bold recommendations in May, they said that, to end the pandemic, developed countries should share 1 billion vaccine doses by Sep 1, followed by another 1 billion by mid-2022. They also called for steps to ease intellectual property restrictions for COVID-19 vaccines, with an automatic waiver if a voluntary agreement can't be reached through World Trade Organization negotiations.

In a statement today, the two co-chairs said COVAX has shipped 99 million donated doses, of which 89 million were sent to 92 lower- and middle-income countries, far short of the 1 billion doses the independent panel called for.

"High-income countries have ordered over twice as many doses as are needed for their populations," they said. "Now is the time to show solidarity with those who have not yet been able to vaccinate their frontline health workers and most vulnerable populations."

Clark and Sirleaf added that countries have pledged more then 600 million doses to COVAX, which now need to be delivered urgently. The two also pressed for quicker action on increasing vaccine production in low- and middle-income countries, and they lauded the recent establishment of a COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa.

New technology to battle COVID-19

In compiling its list of 24 new technologies that can be used in low-resource settings, the WHO said its goal was to select and assess tools that can have immediate and future impacts on COVID response to improve health outcomes or meet unaddressed needs.

Fifteen of the items on the list are already available, while the rest are still in the prototype stage. They range from simple, such as a colorized bleach additive to identify nonsterilized surfaces, to more complex but still user-friendly devices such as portable respiratory monitors, ventilators with extended battery life, and solar-powered oxygen concentrators.

Mariangela Simao, MD, MSc, the WHO's assistant director general for access to health products, said the WHO will continue to work with governments, funders, and manufacturers to support supplies of the items during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

More global headlines

  • Israel today reported a daily record, with 10,900 new infections, according to the Times of Israel. Officials attributed the numbers to a worsening outbreak, combined with more testing, especially in children ahead of the start of the new school year.

  • The European Union yesterday removed the United States from its safe travel list, which puts Americans and those from five other countries under tighter controls, such as testing and quarantining, according to Reuters. The other countries are Israel, Kosovo, Lebanon, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.

  • The global COVID total topped 217 million yesterday, rising to 217,232,541 cases, with at least 4,510,580 deaths, according to the New York Times online tracker.

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