Facing Roadblocks, Vast Global Vaccination Effort Gets Underway

Poorer countries do not pay for vaccines and injection devices under Covax, at least for up to 20 percent of their populations. But they do have to pay the costs of distribution within their borders.

To receive vaccines, countries had to submit plans saying whom they wanted to immunize, how they would go about it and how they would monitor vaccinations. They also had to sign an indemnity agreement with the vaccine manufacturer.

Then they were allocated vaccines by a fair formula, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, which has been planning the rollout along with the World Health Organization and other agencies.

“No country was prioritized,” said Benjamin Schreiber, UNICEF’s coordinator for the Covax program.

Four countries eligible to apply for vaccines under Covax did not do so: Burundi, Eritrea, Madagascar and Tanzania.

Madagascar has said it will continue to use its own herbal remedy, promoted by the president. Tanzania has not reported a single case since last April, and its president had declared the pandemic was “finished” — claims that experts dismiss as nonsense — but he recently changed course, asking people to wear masks.

Until this week, vaccinations in Africa numbered in the thousands, not millions. That is about to change, but the figures remain far below what is needed. On Tuesday, Senegal began its campaign with 200,000 doses, purchased from China. On Wednesday, 200,000 doses donated by China arrived in Mozambique.

The first Covax shipment of 600,000 doses was packed up and labeled in India on Tuesday, then flown to Accra. It will cover just 1 percent of Ghana’s population.

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