20200924 covid-19 vaccine
More than 150 countries have joined COVAX, in which richer countries agree to buy into potential vaccines and help finance access for poorer ones. Image Credit: AP

Geneva: The Covax vaccine programme secured another $2.4 billion from donors on Wednesday, but said it was still struggling to get enough doses to help poorer countries fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The scheme is trying to get enough vaccines for 30 percent of the population in 92 of the poorest territories taking part - 20 percent in India - with donors covering the cost.

But despite raising more than the $2 billion it was looking for, the programme's leaders said the challenge was keeping up with its hoped-for delivery schedule.

"We remain deeply concerned about the short-term disruptions we face," said Seth Berkley, chief executive of the Gavi vaccine alliance.

The Serum Institute of India plant was to have been the backbone of turning out doses for Covax. However, New Delhi restricted SII exports to combat the devastating domestic surge.

"Our early secured supply has faced serious, severe disruption as a result of the terrible second wave in India that is consuming all of that country's production - to the point where by the end of June we'll be facing a shortfall of 190 million doses," Berkley told reporters.

"We need all countries that have doses to share a portion of them with Covax now, so we can get them into the arms of those that are most at risk of the virus," and lower the chances of new variants of concern emerging, he said.

Timing 'crucial'

At Wednesday's meeting, countries pledged to donate more than 54 million vaccine doses to lower-income nations to try to bridge the supply problems.

It brings the total number of shared doses pledged to more than 132 million.

"The critical issue is going to be the timing and trying to get those as soon as possible," Berkley told reporters.

The virtual donors' summit was co-hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Gavi chair Jose Manuel Barroso.

The $2.4 billion raised brought the total sum available to procure vaccines to nearly $9.6 billion, said Barroso.

"We have achieved the goal of securing at least 1.8 billion doses" for the poorest 92 territories, Suga added.

Covax is co-led by the World Health Organization, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

The facility has delivered nearly 80 million doses to 127 territories so far, said Berkley.

Overall, nearly two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been injected in at least 215 territories around the world, according to an AFP count.

Some 38 percent of the doses have been administered in high-income countries accounting for 16 percent of the global population.

Just 0.3 percent have been administered in the 29 lowest-income countries, home to nine percent of the world's people.