A doctor administers the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to a medical worker in Riesa, Germany, January 11 2021. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/MAJA HITJI
A doctor administers the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to a medical worker in Riesa, Germany, January 11 2021. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/MAJA HITJI

Geneva — The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Europe director Hans Kluge said on Thursday that vaccine manufacturers are working non-stop to plug shortfalls in supplies to countries struggling to curb the Covid-19 pandemic and urged them not to jostle for deliveries.

“Solidarity does not necessarily mean that each country in the world starts [vaccinating] at exactly the same moment ... The understanding is that no-one is safe before everyone is safe,” Kluge told an online news briefing.

Asked about delays in expediting Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines to patients across the 27-nation EU, Kluge said governments and manufacturers should work together to addressing “teething problems” in the rollout.

“The reality is there is a shortage of vaccines ... [But] we don’t doubt that manufacturers and producers are working 24/7 to bridge the gaps and we’re confident the delays we see now are going to be made up by extra production in the future.”

As he spoke, Europe’s fight to secure Covid-19 vaccine supplies sharpened when Britain demanded that it receive all the shots it paid for after the EU asked AstraZeneca to divert supplies from the UK.

The EU, whose members are far behind Israel, the UK and the US in dispensing vaccines, is scrambling to get supplies just as the West’s biggest drugmakers slow deliveries to the bloc due to production problems.

“We need to be patient, it will take time to vaccinate,” Kluge said, adding that a total of 35 countries in Europe had launched vaccinations with 25-million does administered so far.

“These vaccines have shown the efficacy and safety we all hoped they would ... This monumental undertaking will release pressure on our health systems and undoubtedly save lives.”

Klue said continued high rates of transmission and emerging variants of the virus make it urgent to vaccinate priority groups, but said the rate of vaccine production and distribution is not yet meeting expectations.

“This paradox, where communities sense an end is in sight with the vaccine but, at the same time, are called to adhere to restrictive measures in the face of a new threat, is causing tension, angst, fatigue, and confusion. This is completely understandable in these circumstances.” 

Reuters

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