The World Health Organization chief on Monday welcomed Sweden’s announcement that it will share 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with the COVAX Facility to provide life-saving vaccines to people at risk from COVID-19 in low-income countries.
WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said COVAX urgently needs 20 million doses during the second quarter of 2021.
That amount is needed to cover interruptions in supply triggered by increased demands for vaccines in India, where the facility’s main supplier of the AstraZeneca vaccine is based.
“Sweden’s announcement that it will share 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with COVAX is a superb gesture that must be replicated urgently, and repeatedly, by governments around the world to accelerate the equitable rollout of vaccines globally,” said Tedros.
Earlier, Gavi, the vaccine alliance, announced it had signed an advance purchase agreement with Moderna for its mRNA vaccine against COVID-19.
The agreement is for 500 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, secured on behalf of the COVAX Facility.
WHO said Friday that it listed the Moderna vaccine for emergency use for the coronavirus -- the fifth injection to receive emergency validation from the world health body.
The Moderna supply begins in the fourth quarter of 2021, with 34 million doses available in 2021 and up to 466 million doses in 2022, said Gavi.
Gavi says that COVAX has so far shipped over 49 million COVID-19 vaccines to 121 participants.
Sweden’s Minister for Development Cooperation Per Olsson Fridh on Monday met with the WHO chief during his visit to the WHO’s Geneva headquarters and made the announcement to share 1 million jabs with the COVAX Facility.
Tedros said: “Such support will ensure that people in vulnerable countries, especially in Africa, will be able to receive their second doses through the COVAX initiative.
“Sweden’s generous support is very timely as it comes at a time when the world needs it most.”
Several other countries have made similar commitments recently, including New Zealand and France, said WHO.
In March, several European countries – including Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway – suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab for a while after reports of blood clots in some vaccinated people.
The EU regulator and the WHO have repeatedly confirmed the AstraZeneca vaccine’s safety and stressed that its benefits outweigh the risks.
"Nearly 900 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 81% have gone to high- or upper middle-income countries, while low-income countries have received just 0.3%," Tedros had said on April 23.