COVAX urges better vaccine rollout in lower-income countries

The COVAX program to speed and equitably deliver COVID-19 vaccine to low- and middle-income countries has enough vaccine supplies, but demand for shots is low and some countries are struggling to launch campaigns, a situation that requires urgent action, the group said today.

The call to close the vaccine gap, which has a goal of protecting 70% of populations in 91 lower-income nations, comes as many parts of the world battle growing waves from more transmissible Omicron subvariants.

Help for coordinating programs, improving demand

Though the COVAX program has made historic progress, the immunization gap is costing lives and is prolonging the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned today. The program has shipped more than 1.3 billion vaccine doses to 87 countries, with about 46% of the population fully vaccinated.

Some countries are success stories, having topped the goal of protecting 70% of their population. Examples are Bhutan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Maldives, Fiji, and Bangladesh. Only 16% of people in low-income countries overall, however, have received a single dose.

COVAX pressed countries to set ambitious targets and prioritize full vaccine coverage for risk groups and for partner organizations to help coordinate national strategies, overcome operational bottlenecks, and to help boost demand.

US upward track continues

The United States is among the countries experiencing a steady increase in COVID-19 cases, and the 7-day average for new daily cases today rose to 105,101, according to an analysis from the New York Times. The number is up from the 7-day average of 103,231 that the Times reported yesterday.

Health officials have said the number of daily cases underestimates the true burden due to the widespread use of rapid home tests for which results aren't typically reported to health departments.

Wastewater data from several parts of the country hint that COVID-19 activity is spreading more widely than case numbers reflect, according to the Times.

For example, in Minnesota, wastewater surveillance suggests that SARS-CoV-2 levels have spiked 58% in the Twin Cities over the past week, with the more transmissible Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 making up 47% of the load and BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants—first detected in South Africa—responsible for 7% of the total.

Other US developments

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accepted a recommendation yesterday from its Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices that children ages 5 though 11 who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine receive a booster shot. "As cases increase across the country, a booster dose will safely help restore and enhance protection against severe disease," the CDC said in a statement shortly after ACIP's vote.

  • People in counties that voted heavily for ex-President Donald Trump in the 2020 election were twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as those living in counties that tilted toward President Joe Biden, according to an NPR analysis that examined how partisanship and misinformation shaped the pandemic.

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