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Global Covid-19 vaccine initiative gains momentum

WHO says over 150 countries interested in joining equitable access initiative for Covid-19 vaccines

More than 150 countries could join a global initiative for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization has announced.

The WHO said on 15 July that 75 countries were interested in becoming partners in the so-called COVAX Facility “to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines worldwide”. Another 90 lower-income countries could be supported through voluntary donations to the Global Vaccine Initiative (Gavi), it said.

The announcement comes amid concerns that richer nations may buy up most of the world’s initial supply of vaccines against the coronavirus. It also follows efforts by the WHO to spur cooperation among nations. In March, the WHO launched the ‘Solidarity’ clinical trial, an international effort to test four potential treatments in a move intended to solve the problem of many smaller-scale trials that would have made it difficult to compare results.

As Covid-19 funding topped $7 billion (£5.5bn) at the end of June, the WHO called for a further $4.7bn for R&D in the next year, despite unprecedented levels of funding.

But the focus on, and disruption caused by, coronavirus means non-coronavirus vaccination efforts may be at risk. On the same day, the WHO warned about “an alarming decline in the number of children receiving life-saving vaccines around the world”, such as that against the human papillomavirus, due to disruptions caused by Covid-19.

More children in the world are immunised than ever before, “but the pandemic has put those gains at risk”, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

“The avoidable suffering and death caused by children missing out on routine immunisations could be far greater than Covid-19 itself,” he said.