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Poorer countries could start getting COVID vaccines this month: WHO

The COVAX facility has raised $6 billion of the $7 billion that it has sought in 2021 to help finance deliveries to 92 developing nations with limited or no means to buy vaccines on their own, O'Brien told a social media event.

January 07, 2021 / 10:13 PM IST

Poorer nations could start receiving COVID-19 vaccines as soon as this month from a World Health Organization-backed programme aiming to divvy up shots fairly to help end the pandemic, WHO immunization director Kate O'Brien said on Thursday.

The COVAX facility has raised $6 billion of the $7 billion that it has sought in 2021 to help finance deliveries to 92 developing nations with limited or no means to buy vaccines on their own, O'Brien told a social media event.

Until now, wealthier nations including Britain, European Union members, the United States, Switzerland and Israel have been at the front of the queue for vaccine deliveries from companies including Pfizer and partner BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The WHO on Dec. 31 extended its emergency use listing to Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine and is now reviewing vaccines from AstraZeneca and China's Sinopharm for similar status, as well as talking to Moderna and Russia's Gamaleya Institute over their own shots.

"So the facility has access to over 2 billion doses of vaccine," O'Brien said. "We will start to deliver those vaccines probably by the end of January, and if not, then certainly by early February and mid-February."

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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So far, some 15 developers of vaccines have submitted data to the WHO, O'Brien added, urging more to follow suit. "We do expect to be emergency-use listing additional vaccines in the coming weeks and the short next months," she said. "This is not the end of the story."

COVAX is also supported by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. In all, 190 countries are involved in the scheme, including wealthier, self-funding countries also due a share of vaccines to be distributed based upon on their population.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
Reuters
first published: Jan 7, 2021 10:12 pm

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