Vaccine scheme eyes 337m shots by June

Albert Otti
·1-min read

A UN-led initiative to share COVID-19 vaccines fairly across the globe is planning to supply 337.2 million doses, mostly to developing countries, in the first half of the year, organisations involved say.

This is enough to immunise nearly 169 million people with two shots - or about 3 per cent of the population in the 145 countries taking part in the Covax scheme.

The initiative expects to distribute 336 million doses of the vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford in the first two quarters, most of them made under licence by the Serum Institute of India.

An additional 1.2 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses are expected in the first quarter.

Shipments could begin at the end of February, senior WHO vaccination official Ann Lindstrand told an online press conference.

"We can start vaccinating. It's coming in the next weeks," she said.

The shots are meant to protect people at high risk of infection and developing a severe case of COVID-19, such as the elderly and health workers.

Covax was designed as a pooling mechanism for countries to reduce the risk involved with betting against particular vaccines.

Although it is also open to wealthy countries, most have chosen not to procure doses through Covax.

"That means that there are more doses available for others," said Seth Berkley, who heads Gavi, the public-private vaccine alliance that coordinates the Covax project.

While many recipient countries will buy doses at affordable prices through Covax, the scheme covers the costs for 92 poorer countries.