Friday, January 28

Covid vaccines: slow start around the world brings dose of reality | Coronavirus

TThe global introduction of recently approved coronavirus vaccines has been characterized by delays, shortages and bureaucratic errors, as it has become clear that many governments will not meet their mass inoculation targets.

The burst of optimism that came with the approvals of new vaccines, fueled by unrealistic expectations raised by politicians, collides with the reality of the challenge of vaccinating a large portion of the world’s population.

The large-scale effort by pharmaceutical companies to produce and package doses is already under stress due to a shortage of “fill and finish” materials, such as the glass vials used for the vaccine.

Other bottlenecks involve the ability of regulatory authorities to approve packaged lots of vaccine, the effectiveness of national vaccination systems, and local requirements to assess, monitor, and then record recipient data, most of which require more. time to administer the injection. .

So how are individual countries doing?


The deployment of its vaccine program in the United States has struggled, echoing the country’s chaotic response to the pandemic under Donald Trump.

Of the approximately 17.5 million doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines that have been distributed nationwide, only 4.2 million have been administered, comprising primarily the first of two doses.

That’s far behind what the United States planned to be in late 2020, when 20 million people were expected to have been vaccinated. Reports have emerged of vaccines not working due to poor organization, lack of healthcare professionals to administer them, or, in one case, sabotage.

Top US Public Health Official Dr. Anthony Fauci Prepares to Receive a Dose of Modern Covid Vaccine
The top US public health official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, prepares to receive a dose of the Modern Covid vaccine. Photograph: Reuters

The biggest problem in the delays appears to be the fact that federal officials left delivery logistics to local health officials and hospitals, even as they were struggling to deal with the impact of a pandemic that has killed more than 350,000 Americans.

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said Sunday he had seen “a little glimmer of hope” after 1.5 million doses were administered in the previous 72 hours, an increase. marked.


Hailed as a success story for the initial speed of its vaccination campaign, Israeli media reported last week that the pace of the vaccination campaign means purchased doses are running low and may need to be stopped unless negotiated. a new supply.

People receive coronavirus vaccines in Ramat Gan, Israel
People receive vaccines against the coronavirus in Ramat Gan, Israel. Photograph: Oded Balilty / AP

While Israel’s vaccination campaign, which has been based on the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine that must be stored in extremely cold temperatures, has been among the fastest in the world, its health minister, Yuli Edelstein, said his ministry could leave of administering the first doses for a short period, telling Channel 12 “there will be no shortage of the second dose.”

European Union

A disconnect between the different regulatory approval regimes for vaccines is also causing its own problems, including supply shortages in some countries. While the UK quickly approved the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in the UK and has since approved a second, the European Medicines Agency adopted a slower regulatory process and with Pfizer / BioNTech so far the only vaccine allowed within of the bloc, has led to more demand from EU countries than the company can offer.

He has warned that there will be gaps in the supply of his vaccines until other vaccines are released, and Uğur Şahin, the CEO of BioNTech, told Germany’s Spiegel: “At the moment it does not look good, a hole is appearing because there is lack of other approved vaccines and we have to fill the gap with our own vaccine. “

A nurse holds a Covid vaccine in Rome, Italy
A nurse holds a Covid vaccine in Rome, Italy. Photography: Massimo Percossi / EPA

The European Commission said Monday it was in talks with Pfizer and BioNTech about the possibility of ordering more doses of its vaccine, in addition to the 300 million injections already covered by an existing contract. It was unclear whether this would compete with a German deal for more doses of the same vaccine.

Underscoring the vaccine supply problem, Germany and Denmark are also looking into delaying the administration of a second dose of the vaccine to push the meager supplies further, after a similar move from Britain last week.


Within the EU, France has had its own specific problems that have meant that its vaccination program has progressed at a glacial rate so far.

With one of the most vaccine-skeptical populations in the world, France had only managed to inoculate 516 people compared to the UK’s 1 million, despite having 500,000 doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine.

A patient receives a Covid vaccine at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Paris
A patient receives a Covid vaccine at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Paris. Photograph: Sameer Al-Doumy / AFP / Getty Images

Critics have also pointed to the 200,000 people who have been immunized in Germany over a similar period of time after the EU-wide deployment began a week ago. The figure in France rose to several thousand on Monday, according to Health Minister Olivier Véran.

With a ‘hypercritical’ public attitude towards vaccines (a survey conducted over the weekend showed that six out of 10 people intended to reject one) France had settled on a slow and bureaucratic process, including a mandatory consultation with a doctor several days before receiving a vaccine. President Emmanuel Macron has called for a faster deployment.


One supposed advantage of national vaccination programs is the presence of a well-developed manufacturing capacity, although that has not necessarily been the case in the US.

While Indian regulators have just approved the country’s first two Covid vaccines for restricted emergency use, one developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and the other locally conceived by Bharat Biotech, India is home to the Serum Institute of India, the largest. global manufacturer of vaccines that will eventually provide doses for the Covax scheme to supply the developing world.

People wait their turn during a trial at a Covid vaccination center in New Delhi, India
People wait their turn during a trial at a Covid vaccination center in New Delhi, India. Photograph: Altaf Qadri / AP

However, for now, India’s emergency use authorization means that the vaccines will only be manufactured and available in India, which with around 10 million Covid-19 infections is one of the hardest hit countries in the world behind The US Brazil is in talks to get fixes from India ahead of a possible export ban.

The country plans to inoculate 300 million frontline workers, the elderly and vulnerable people from its population of 1.35 billion by August and has a reserve of more than 50 million doses. India also has considerable experience in conducting mass vaccination campaigns.


China, where Covid-19 originated, has followed (as has Russia) a typically aggressive approach to vaccine development and inoculation that has surprised the West by claims of a lack of transparency in test data.

Four and a half million Chinese received doses of Chinese-made vaccines in trial even before the approval last week of a vaccine produced by the state-owned company Sinopharm, and Beijing alone installed 220 emerging vaccination sites and delivered more than 73,000 injections in the first two days of 2021.

People are inoculated with a Covid vaccine at a health center in Beijing
People are vaccinated with a Covid vaccine at a health center in Beijing. Photograph: Xinhua / Rex / Shutterstock

The country aims to vaccinate 50 million people by February’s lunar new year in an attempt to control the spread of the virus when large parts of the population travel.

Other countries included Egypt, who has approved the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use, and Pakistan they have said they will use the Sinopharm vaccine as part of their response.

South Africa

South Africa, like other African nations, has found itself struggling to obtain vaccines despite the global Covax initiative designed to ensure an equitable supply of cheap vaccines to the poorest countries.

Although Pfizer and AstraZeneca have said they plan to supply doses, Moderna from the US does not have supplies for Africa, and the AstraZeneca vaccine may not be available before next year in South Africa, the continent’s worst affected country with 1.09 million confirmed infections and 29,175 deaths. .

The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine
The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. Photograph: Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images

South Africa will receive enough vaccines for 10% of its population of 60 million people through the Covax initiative, but with concern about the new South African variant of the virus rise, which is a drop in the ocean.

African countries will also face problems such as a shortage of ultra-cold storage for Pfizer vaccine and logistical problems for distribution. Experts have said that the absence of effective vaccination in the developing world could leave reservoirs of diseases, including new mutations, that will continue to threaten global outbreaks.

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