Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Masisi vaccine cheating claims a lie?

The administrators of an international covid-19 vaccine allocation and distribution facility have brushed aside President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s criticism insisting that they are fair in their allocation and distribution of vaccines to Botswana. 

The comment by Gavi, which is co-leading the COVAX facility with among others, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations’ UNICEF follows President Masisi’s recent frustrations at COVAX suggesting that it had cheated Botswana and other African countries despite the fact that some of them had made an upfront payment for the vaccines after they had signed up to the facility as self-financing countries. 

The President also fell short of suggesting that the facility was a scam adding that the allocation and distribution were done in piecemeal fashion. COVAX is a worldwide initiative aimed at distributing vaccines to countries across the world regardless of their economic status. Responding to Sunday Standard queries this week, a Gavi spokesperson brushed aside criticism levelled at the COVAX facility by Masisi insisting it was focused on fair allocation and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. Asked what the COVAC facility’s position was on President Masisi’s criticism, the Gavi spokesperson said, “Given the large scale of distribution that COVAX is responsible for, and guided by the principle that equitable access to doses is the only way to end the pandemic, COVAX allocates and distributes doses in tranches, based on current available global supply.”   

Sometime this year COVAX was dealt a heavy blow when the largest single supplier to the facility, the Serum Institute of India (SII) halted its planned shipments (mostly AstraZeneca vaccine) after it suspended exports in March following reports that India was recording a surge in new Covid-19 cases. The result is that the institute announced that it would not continue with deliveries to COVAX until the end o this year.

According to the Gavi spokesperson, “As supply ramps up in the second half of the year, additional doses will be allocated and delivered both AMC(advanced Market Commitment)  countries and –self-financing participants and COVAX will continue to work with countries on the continent to enhance coverage.” 

Following Masisi’s suggestion that Botswana and other African countries could have been given a raw deal by signing up to the COVAX and then allocated vaccines in a piecemeal fashion, scores of Batswana took to social media with some suggesting that Botswana was to blame as it delayed to procure Covid-19 vaccines. Some commentators also suggested that while Botswana had signed up to the COVAX facility for an affordable vaccine for Covid-19 it should also have considered other alternative ways of securing vaccine doses as the allocation was not enough (20% of the population) as it could not enable the country to have herd immunity of the population as well as to counter the shortcomings of the facility. 

Pressed further as to why Botswana was not on the list of countries that are expected to receive Covid-19  vaccines in the 5th round of COVAX facility allocation (for Pfizer BionTech vaccine), the Gavi spokesperson told Sunday Standard that, “You will be able to find a clear overview of the allocation document, which also provides an explanation of why some countries are not on the allocation list.” According to the allocation document in question, “Based on the knowledge of COVID-19 vaccine supply availability, this fifth of COVAX allocation provides information on the provision of 72,190,170 doses of the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine, allocated to 99 participants, covering the period July-September 2021. 

These doses are made available to the COVAX facility both through the advance purchase agreement (APA) between Gavi and Pfizer, as well as a procurement of additional doses facilitated by the United States. “Facility participants not included in this round (and therefore not listed in the table below) are either: elected to skip this round; opted out of receiving the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine, had already reached 205 total population coverage (or requested coverage level if less than 20%) through previous allocations (including donations0 or were self-financing participant (optional purchase) whose pro-rata share of the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine has already been fulfilled through previous allocations. The document further states that, “this fifth round of allocations took place as per the Fair allocation mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, which was developed by WHO in consultation with its Member States.

This allocation framework for fair and equitable access to access COVID-19 health products sets forth the criteria and approach to allocation pf vaccines the COVAX facility.” The document also states that, “The population coverage reached in the COVAX Participants that received the early Pfizer-BionTech doses was factored into this present allocation round, as were previous allocations under the COVAX facility, and the dose donations executed so far. Furthermore, included in this round is a volume of 59,999,940 Pfizer doses made available to COVAX for delivery in Q3 2023 through procurement facilitated by the US government.

The round took into account that these doses are earmarked specifically to the entire group of AMC participants, as well as to six self-financing participants who are members of the African Union (including Botswana).Meanwhile reports indicate that about 15,000 people in Botswana will not be able to get their second dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine in time and will be vaccinated with either Pfizer (PFE.N) or Moderna (MRNA.O).Botswana, which is purchasing the vaccines from AstraZeneca (AZN.L) under the World Health Organisation-backed COVAX scheme, had signed up for 940,800 doses of the two-shot vaccine.

Reports further indicate that it has so far received only 62,400 AstraZeneca and 19,890 Pfizer doses under the scheme, according to official government numbers. “The shortfall in the AstraZeneca vaccine is about 15,000 doses, resulting in people of the same number likely to get their second doses beyond the initially anticipated 12 weeks,” the Ministry of Health and Wellness had said in a statement.

The ministry stated that, “A decision has been taken that all those affected by these developments be offered Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, as second doses, if any of the two become available earlier than the expected AstraZeneca  vaccine.”

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