Millions of COVID-19 vaccines shared by rich countries were wasted. Why? – National

At least 100 million COVID-19 vaccines sent to poorer nations had to be rejected last month – though not because the countries did not want them, according to a UNICEF official.

On the contrary, richer nations delivered the vaccines too close to their expiration date and in numbers too large for the recipient nations to store, Etleva Kadilli, director of the Supply Division at the UN agency UNICEF, told lawmakers in the European Parliament on Thursday.

“More than 100 million have been rejected just in December alone,” Kadilli told Reuters.

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But public health experts and bioethicists say getting the world vaccinated is the key to avoiding the creation of new varieties. So what happened to these doses and how do we make sure it does not happen again?

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Almost expired COVID-19 doses delivered

The doses delivered by rich nations were close to their expiration, Kadilli told European lawmakers Thursday, giving poorer nations less time to get the vaccines into arms.

“If I delivered a bottle of milk to you every day, and every day, and I delivered a bottle of milk to you, you drank that bottle of milk. If one day without any warning I showed up with 100 bottles of milk that expired at midnight, you would not be able to drink them, ”said Dr. Peter Singer, WHO adviser, in an interview with Global News.

“And that’s exactly what happened here.”

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Kerry Bowman has traveled to Yemen, a country with a vaccination rate of 0.5 percent, twice in the last five months. As vaccine inequality issues become more and more conspicuous, he says he is meeting more people abroad who believe that Canada “does not form respectful global partnerships.”

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“This is a kind of rejected hand-me-down rejection from high-income countries – ‘We give you vaccines we do not want that are about to expire’, as opposed to ‘We want to stop building partnerships for well-being for all of us as human beings, said Bowman, a bioethicist and global health professor at the University of Toronto.

The shelf life of the doses is not the only problem at hand.

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There are many steps that come between the delivery of vaccine doses and the needles that actually go into the arms, according to Tinglong Dai, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in health logistics.

“What it takes to vaccinate people, to put doses in people’s arms, is actually … much harder work,” Dai said.

For example, nations must have the refrigeration and storage facilities on arrival, Dai said. Then they must be able to transport the vaccines – that means they need people to transport them, trucks, trains or planes and roads. People must also be able to get to the vaccination site.

You also need “professionals,” Dai said, to inject vaccines into weapons, to perform quality control on the vaccines themselves, and to turn the “raw materials” that countries receive into actual vaccines.

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Getting “a million doses of vaccine,” Dai said, “does not matter unless they have the ability to turn it into actual vaccinations.”

Solving the COVID-19 vaccine equality issue

One of the most important things countries like Canada can do to ensure that vaccines are not wasted is to ensure a “predictable supply.”

Canada has committed to sharing 200 million vaccines through the Global COVAX Vaccine Sharing Initiative, and it has delivered nearly 100 million of them to date, according to Global Affairs.

Yet the number distributed can vary greatly 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 to use bottlenecks in distribution … as an excuse to limit supply,” Singer said.

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Bowman was concerned that recent headlines about vaccines remaining unused could also affect supply.

“One of the first things that worries me is that people say, ‘Well, it’s no use sending these things to low-income countries because they will not be able to handle them,'” Bowman said.

“It’s completely wrong.”

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Bottlenecks occur “in every country in the world,” Singer said.

“In Canada, the military is helping to distribute vaccines in Quebec. This is not unique to countries with low and lower middle incomes. Every country has some distribution bottlenecks, ”he explained.

Once supply is secured, richer nations can also help ensure that these countries have the capacity to actually roll them out, Dai said.

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This can be achieved by sharing research on the vaccines themselves, global health experts said, as well as by donating supplies such as refrigerators, deploying professionals who can help distribute, deliver and inject vaccines, or increase funding so nations can do it for them. self.

It’s a bit like assembling furniture, he said.

“If someone does not have furniture (and) you just supply them five boxes of IKEA furniture, it may not help them, because not everyone has the ability to assemble IKEA furniture,” Dai explained.

“In this case, it’s like dropping IKEA furniture on someone’s door,” he added, and they “might say no.”

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Canada can also help by sharing vaccine research and development – or forcing pharmaceutical companies to waive vaccine patents – Singer added, allowing countries to manufacture vaccines within their own borders.

“I think most Canadians probably do not know that one of the key components of the mRNA vaccine – the lipid nanoparticles, which are actually how the vaccine is delivered – was developed in Canada,” Singer said.

“So Canada has a lot of research and development potential. And while we’re rebuilding our own domestic vaccine production, we can also work with countries around the world to help them rebuild their domestic production.”

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This, Singer said, will create “a much more resilient future.”

What is Canada already doing?

Canada has sought to help address vaccine inequality by donating to the Global Vaccine Sharing Initiative, COVAX, according to a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada.

“Through financial contributions and donated surplus doses, Canada has made 98.8 million doses available to COVAX of the committed 200 million doses,” Patricia Skinner wrote in an email statement.

Canada is also doing its best to ensure that doses are not wasted, she added.

“No doses sit still; vaccines are distributed to the recipient countries as soon as possible. “In exceptional circumstances, Canada may explore other options for donations as needed, including bilateral donations to avoid waste,” Skinner said.

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The government has also provided $ 70 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, which enables participating countries to apply for funding to support in-country vaccine delivery and distribution, and has partnered with UNICEF to match Canadians’ donations to the #GiveaVax Fund dollar-for-dollar.

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“The funds enable UNICEF to cover the cost per person of transporting vaccines to destination countries, keeping vaccines viable by protecting the cold chain during travel, and training health professionals to effectively administer the vaccines and safely dispose of needles and waste.” said Skinner.

“Thanks to the generous contributions of individual Canadians, the full $ 19,351,857 (total donations and match) will cover the cost of vaccinating over 3.8 million people around the world.”

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Still, Bowman said Canada needs to step things up in the coming year.

“Canada has come through with extra funding for health infrastructure, but we now have to get through with much, much more by the year 2022,” he said.

This is an issue that Canada is talking about with other countries around the world, according to a spokesman for International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan.

“Minister Sajjan has raised vaccine equity and the need to ensure timely delivery of vaccines to the global South when he meets with his colleagues and partners,” said Todd Lane, Sajjan’s spokesman.

“We continue to work with COVAX and the global community to roll out the vaccine dose in a fair and timely manner.”

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A selfish and generous solution to COVID-19

Stepping up the fight for global vaccine access is not only the ethical thing to do – it’s also a way to ensure Canadians stay safe, according to Bowman.

“If we do not do this, we will all have a great lesson in the Greek alphabet, as these variants keep coming to us,” he said.

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The more a virus spreads, the more it replicates – and the more likely it is to make a mistake while replicating, which is a mutation.

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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 COVID-19 spreads, the more replication occurs – and the more chances there are of a serious mutation breaking through.

“It’s in our interest to vaccinate the world, not only because it saves a wealth of lives, but also because it’s a way to help prevent variants,” Singer said.

“And who wants to go through Omicron again?”

– With files from Reuters

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