Honduras got tired of waiting to get vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) through a United Nations (UN) program, so the small Central American country secured the shots through a private deal.
Honduras “cannot wait on bureaucratic processes or misguided decisions” to give citizens “the peace of mind” offered by the Covid-19 vaccine, said Juan Carlos Sikaffy, president of the Honduran Private Business Council, which helped complete the purchase by providing a bank guarantee.
Other nations are getting impatient too. Unlike past disease outbreaks, where less wealthy countries have generally waited for vaccines to be delivered by the UN and other organizations, many are now taking matters into their own hands. Experts are increasingly concerned that these go-it-alone efforts could undermine a UN-backed program called COVAX to get Covid-19 shots to the neediest people worldwide.
Countries including Serbia, Bangladesh and Mexico recently began vaccinating citizens through donations or commercial deals — an approach that could leave even fewer vaccines for the program known as COVAX, since rich countries have already snapped up the majority of this year’s supply.
Led by the World Health Organization, a coalition for epidemic preparedness known as CEPI and a vaccine alliance called GAVI, COVAX was created to distribute Covid-19 vaccines fairly. Countries can join either to buy vaccines or to get donated shots.
Mustaqeem De Gama, a diplomat at the South African mission in Geneva, cited “a level of desperation” fueled by spreading virus variants and “the uncertainty of when any COVAX vaccines might arrive.” He doubted that countries that signed up for COVAX ”will even get 10 percent of what they require.”
Even if the effort succeeds, COVAX’s stated goal is to vaccinate less than 30 percent of people in poor countries, meaning that governments must seek other sources to obtain enough shots to achieve herd immunity. SOVEREIGNPH