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Key Workers in 145 Countries to Receive COVID Vaccines Under COVAX Initiative

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Some 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which requires ultra-cold chain storage, are to be delivered to 18 countries in the first quarter of the year, out of an agreed total of 40 million. An additional 336 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford jab is to be lined up for dispatch to nearly all countries that have signed up to the COVAX scheme, once it has been approved for use by the UN health agency.
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Key workers and other vulnerable people in 145 countries should receive COVID-19 vaccines in the first half of this year, under the joint UN-led COVAX initiative for fair access to coronavirus-beating jabs, it’s been confirmed. 

Some 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which requires ultra-cold chain storage, are to be delivered to 18 countries in the first quarter of the year, out of an agreed total of 40 million. An additional 336 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford jab is to be lined up for dispatch to nearly all countries that have signed up to the COVAX scheme, once it has been approved for use by the UN health agency. 

The total number of doses will cover, on average, 3.3 per cent of the population of the countries benefiting from the scheme, according to the announcement made on Wednesday, by the World Health Organization (WHO) to help Governments to prepare their vaccine distribution programmes and provide details about which vaccine they can expect to receive, between now and the end of June. 

This will make it possible for governments to protect their most vulnerable citizens - such as front-line health care workers, the World Health Organization said, along with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. 

Uganda's ministry of health announced earlier that it has placed an order for 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca Vaccine from the Serum Institute of India which will be used to vaccinate persons aged 50 and above, those with underlying health conditions, health workers, security personnel, and teachers, among other essential services providers.

The COVAX Facility, which is managed by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, GAVI has already allocated 3.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Uganda. These are expected into the country by the end of the month. 

Ahead of the announcement, Henrietta Fore, the head of UN Children’s Fund-UNICEF noted that the agency had been getting ready by stockpiling half a billion syringes and working with airlines, governments and other partners to iron out potential supply hiccups.  

“Our country offices will support governments as they move forward with this first wave to ensure that they are ready to receive the vaccines that require an ultra-cold chain (storage). “This includes ensuring that health workers are fully trained in how to store and handle the vaccines…Many of these doses will go to health workers in urban areas who are at the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 infections.” 

In a related development on Wednesday, Ms Fore also announced the signing of a deal securing 1.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for around 100 countries. The agreement with the Serum Institute of India is for the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine and the Novavax vaccine, both of which have yet to receive Emergency Use Listing by the WHO. 

Low and middle-income countries will pay approximately USD 3 per dose, Ms Fore said. “This is a great value for COVAX donors and a strong demonstration of one of the fundamental principles of COVAX – that by pooling our resources we can negotiate in bulk for the best possible deals.”

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