WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that once the devastating COVID-19 outbreak in India recedes, the Serum Institute of India (SII) will need to get back on track and catch up on its delivery commitments to COVAX, the global initiative to supply coronavirus vaccines to nations around the world.
During a daily virtual press briefing on Monday, the World Health Organisation Director-General said that the surge in COVID-19 cases around the world has compromised the global vaccine supply and there is already a shortfall of 190 million doses to COVAX by the end of June.
COVAX, the global COVID vaccine equity scheme, has so far delivered 65 million doses to 124 countries and economies but it is dependent on countries and manufacturers honouring their commitments.
Once the devastating outbreak in India recedes, we also need the Serum Institute of India to get back on track and catch up on its delivery commitments to COVAX, Ghebreyesus said.
The UN children’s agency UNICEF said the devastating surge in coronavirus cases in India has impacted vaccine supplies to the COVAX facility.
Among the global consequences of the situation in India, a global hub for vaccine production, is a severe reduction in vaccines available to COVAX.
Soaring domestic demand has meant that 140 million doses intended for distribution to low- and middle-income countries through the end of May cannot be accessed by COVAX. Another 50 million doses are likely to be missed in June, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
A note to editors in the UNICEF statement said that shortfall numbers are based on delays related to shipments from the Serum Institute of India (SII) only. Other delays related to the original COVAX delivery schedule are expected to be made up by the end of June.
There is currently no timetable to resolve SII-related delays, the note said.
UNICEF said the COVAX facility will deliver its 65 millionth dose in the coming days when it should have been at least its 170 millionth.
By the time G7 leaders gather in the UK next month, and as a deadly second wave of COVID-19 will likely continue to sweep across India and many of its South Asian neighbours, the shortfall will be near 190 million doses.
The UNICEF Executive Director said in addition to vaccine nationalism, limited production capacity and lack of funding is the reason why the roll-out of COVID vaccines is so behind schedule.
While expressing concern over the surge in coronavirus cases in India, Fore said the UN has issued repeated warnings of the risks of “letting down our guard and leaving low- and middle-income countries without equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.
We are concerned that the deadly spike in India is a precursor to what will happen if those warnings remain unheeded. While the situation in India is tragic, it is not unique.