At least 100 million COVID-19 vaccines sent to poor countries last month were rejected — not because countries didn’t want them, according to a UNICEF official.
Instead, the richer countries have delivered vaccines too close to their expiration dates and in numbers too large for recipient countries to stockpile them, Etliva Kadeli, director of supply at the United Nations UNICEF, told lawmakers in the European Parliament on Thursday.
“More than 100 million were rejected in December alone,” Kadili said.
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But public health experts and bioethicists say vaccinating the world is key to avoiding creating new variants. So what happened to these dosing, and how do we make sure it never happens again?
Almost expired COVID-19 doses delivered
Qadeli told European lawmakers on Thursday that doses provided by rich countries were nearing expiration, giving poor countries less time to get their shots.
“If I deliver you a bottle of milk every day, and every day I deliver you a bottle of milk, you drank that bottle of milk,” Dr. Peter Singer, a consultant to the World Health Organization, said in an interview with Global News: No warning, with 100 bottles of milk expiring in the middle of the night, you won’t be able to drink it..
“And that’s exactly what happened here.”
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Keri Bowman has traveled to Yemen, a country with a vaccination rate of 0.5 percent, twice in the past five months. As vaccine inequality issues become more visible, he says he’s confronting more people abroad who believe Canada “doesn’t form respectable global partnerships.”
“This is the kind of dismissive high-income country type — ‘we’re going to give you the vaccines we don’t want, which are about to run out,’ rather than ‘we’re going to tune in to partnering for the well-being of all of us as human beings.
The shelf life of the doses is not the only problem at hand.
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There are a lot of steps that come between delivering vaccine doses and actually dashing the needles into the arms, according to Tinglong Dai, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in healthcare logistics.
“What it takes to inoculate people, put potions into people’s arms, that’s actually… a way, way more difficult work,” Day said.
For example, states need refrigeration and warehousing facilities on arrival, Day said. Then, they need to be able to transport the vaccines – meaning they need people to transport them, trucks, trains or planes, and roads. People also need to be able to get to the vaccination site.
You also need “professionals” to inject vaccines into weapons, monitor the quality of the vaccines themselves, and convert the “raw materials” that countries receive into actual vaccines, Day said.
Getting “a million doses of a vaccine,” Day said, “means nothing unless they have the ability to turn that into actual vaccines.”
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One of the main things countries like Canada can do to ensure that vaccines are not wasted is to provide a “predictable supply”.
Canada has committed to sharing 200 million vaccines through the COVAX Global Vaccine Sharing Initiative, and has provided nearly 100 million of them so far, according to Global Affairs.
However, the numbers distributed can vary widely from day to day – Bangladesh received 2.2 million doses on December 19 alone, while two days later more than 470,000 doses arrived in Rwanda.
“It’s really important to have predictable supply and not use bottlenecks in distribution … as an excuse to limit supply,” Singer said.
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Bowman was concerned that recent headlines about vaccines that remain unused could affect supply as well.
“One of the first things that worries me is that people say, ‘Well, there’s no point in sending this stuff to low-income countries because they’re not going to be able to handle it,'” Bowman said.
“This is completely wrong.”
Ending the covid-19 pandemic
Singer said bottlenecks happen “in every country in the world”.
In Canada, the military helps distribute vaccines in Quebec. This is not limited to low-income and lower-middle-income countries. Every country suffers from some bottlenecks in distribution.
Once supplies are secured, Day said, wealthier countries can also help ensure that those countries actually have the capacity to deploy them.
Global health experts said this could be achieved by sharing research on vaccines themselves, as well as by donating supplies such as refrigerators, sending professionals who can help distribute, deliver and injecting vaccines, or increasing funding so countries can do so. themselves.
He said it was a bit like assembling furniture.
Dai explained, “If someone doesn’t have furniture (and) you just hand them five boxes of IKEA furniture, it might not help them, because not everyone has the ability to assemble IKEA furniture.”
“In this case, it’s like you’re dropping IKEA furniture on someone’s door,” he added, and “they might say no.”
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Canada could also help by sharing vaccine research and development — or pushing drug companies to waive vaccine patents — so countries can make the vaccines themselves, within their borders, Singer added.
“I think most Canadians probably don’t know that one of the main components of the mRNA vaccine — lipid nanoparticles, which is actually the vaccine’s delivery method — was developed in Canada,” Singer said.
“So Canada has a lot of research and development potential. As we rebuild our domestic vaccine industry, we can also work with countries around the world to help them rebuild local manufacturing.”
This would create a “much more resilient future,” Singer said.
What is Canada already doing?
Canada is trying to help tackle vaccine inequality by making a donation to the global vaccine sharing initiative, COVAX, according to a Global Affairs Canada spokesperson.
“Through financial contributions and donated excess doses, Canada has made 98.8 million doses available to COVAX out of the 200 million committed doses,” Patricia Skinner wrote in an emailed statement.
She added that Canada is doing its best to ensure that doses are not wasted.
“There are no empty doses; vaccines are distributed to recipient countries as quickly as possible. In exceptional circumstances, Canada may explore other options for donations as necessary, including bilateral donations to avoid waste,” Skinner said.
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The government also awarded $70 million for the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, which allows participating countries to apply for funding to support vaccine delivery and distribution within their country, and partnered with UNICEF to match donations from Canadians with the #GiveaVax Fund in dollar-for-dollars.
“The funds enable UNICEF to cover the individual cost of transporting vaccines to destination countries, keeping vaccines viable by protecting the cold chain during the flight and training health care workers in the effective management of vaccines and the safe disposal of needles and waste,” said Skinner.
“Thanks to the generous contributions of Canadian individuals, the full amount of $1,9351,857 (total donations and match) will cover the costs of vaccinating more than 3.8 million people worldwide.”
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However, Bowman said Canada needs to step things up next year.
“Canada got additional funding for healthcare infrastructure, but now we have to bring in much more money in 2022,” he said.
It’s an issue that Canada is talking about with other countries around the world, according to a spokesperson for International Development Minister Harjit Sagan.
“Secretary Sagan raised equity in vaccines and the need to ensure timely delivery of vaccines to the Global South when meeting with his counterparts and partners,” said Todd Lane, a spokesperson for Sagan.
“We continue to collaborate with COVAX and the global community so that the vaccine dose is deployed in a fair and timely manner.”
A selfish and generous solution to COVID-19
Escalating the fight for access to a universal vaccine isn’t just an ethical thing to do — it’s also a way to ensure Canadians stay safe, according to Bowman.
“If we don’t,” he said, “we’re all going to get a great lesson in the Greek alphabet as these variants continue to confront us.”
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The more a virus spreads, the more it reproduces – and the more likely it is that it will make a mistake during reproduction, a mutation.
These mutations can sometimes be beneficial to the virus, for example, by making it more transmissible, or teaching it to avoid vaccines, according to several public health experts. The more spread of COVID-19, the more reproduction occurs – and the higher the chances of a dangerous mutation.
“It is in our interest to vaccinate the world, not only because it saves many lives, but also because it is a way to help prevent variants,” Singer said.
“And who wants to pass through Omicron again?”
– With files from Reuters
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