By Caribbean News Global
TORONTO, Canada — Notwithstanding that Suriname last Friday, received 24,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to lower-income economies participating in the COVAX Facility will face delays during March and April as the government of India battles a new wave of COVID-19 infections.
The Suriname deliver, however, marks a historic step toward ensuring the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, in the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. Suriname is also expected to continue receiving doses through May until it reaches 79,200, the amount specified by COVAX. Subsequent doses are expected to be received during the second half of the year with total doses deployed to cover up to 20 percent of the population.
“The delivery of the first tranche of vaccines through the COVAX Facility with the support of PAHO is a proud moment for Suriname in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The country is very committed to securing vaccines for the people of Suriname to protect the most vulnerable and reduce deaths. We will continue to work with the country to support vaccination as well as other public health and social measures that are known to help stop the spread of COVID-19, protect health services, and save lives,” said, Dr Karen Lewis-Bell, PAHO/WHO Representative in Suriname.
“With the arrival of these vaccines, Suriname will be able to vaccinate more of the vulnerable people. We are very glad to receive the vaccines and believe that it will help us in our goal to minimize admissions to hospitals and deaths due to COVID-19. The vaccination program of the country is being strengthened and we are thankful that the COVAX Facility and PAHO could secure these vaccine doses for Suriname,” said Dr Rakesh Sukul, acting director of health, ministry of health, Suriname.
Meanwhile, “COVAX and the government of India remain in discussions to ensure some supplies are completed during March and April,” said a World Health Organization (WHO) press release.
“According to the agreement between Gavi and the Serum Institute of India (SII), which included funding to support an increase in manufacturing capacity, SII is contracted to provide COVAX with the SII-licensed and manufactured AstraZeneca (AZ)-Oxford vaccine (known as COVISHIELD) to 64 lower-income economies participating in the Gavi COVAX AMC (including India), alongside its commitments to the government of India.
“To date, COVAX has been supplied with 28 million COVISHIELD doses and was expecting an additional 40 million doses to be available in March, and up to 50 million doses in April. COVAX has notified all affected economies of potential delays. SII has pledged that, alongside supplying India, it will prioritize the COVAX multilateral solution for equitable distribution,” the WHO, COVAX update to participants said in a press release.
Participating economies have also received WHO guidance on optimizing the national deployment doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in a constrained supply environment.
“Separately, the COVAX Facility has informed participants allocated AstraZeneca-manufactured doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine that some of the first deliveries due in March are now set to take place in April,” further advised that “in this early phase of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, vaccine manufacturers require time to scale and optimize their production processes. AstraZeneca, which uses a novel supply chain network with sites across multiple continents, is working to enable initial supply to 82 countries through COVAX in the coming weeks.”
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as a key implementing partner, as well as civil society organizations, vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others. In the Americas, the PAHO Revolving Fund is the recognized procurement agent for the COVAX facility.
“COVAX retains its objective of supplying initial doses of vaccines to all participating economies in the first half of the year before ramping up significantly in the second half of 2021. To date, COVAX has shipped vaccines to over 50 countries and economies,” WHO update advised.