Improve quality of donated COVID-19 vaccines, international community told

Improve quality of donated COVID-19 vaccines, international community told
Improve quality of donated COVID-19 vaccines, international community told

Improve quality of donated COVID-19 vaccines, international community told

African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) and COVAX have urged the international community to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccines they are donating to Africa are within the required quality.

Most African countries have often received vaccines that are almost expiring.

Zimbabwe faced problems with the vaccine that had been donated by India but had a short shelf life.

The country had to put extra effort to ensure the vaccine does not go to waste.

Other countries that have received donated vaccines had to incur huge costs through logistics to receive the doses.

In a joint statement AVAT, Africa CDC and COVAX said dose donations have been an important source of supply while other sources are stepping up, but the quality of donations needs to improve.

‘’AVAT and COVAX are focused on accelerating access to and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa. Together we are rapidly expanding supply to the continent and providing countries with the support to be able to utilize the doses they receive.

‘’To date, over 90 million donated doses have been delivered to the continent via COVAX and AVAT and millions more via bilateral arrangements.

‘’However, the majority of the donations to date have been ad hoc, provided with little notice and short shelf lives. This has made it extremely challenging for countries to plan vaccination campaigns and increase absorptive capacity.

‘’To achieve higher coverage rates across the continent, and for donations to be a sustainable source of supply that can complement supply from AVAT and COVAX purchase agreements, this trend must change.

‘’Countries need predictable and reliable supply. Having to plan at short notice and ensure uptake of doses with short shelf lives exponentially magnifies the logistical burden on health systems that are already stretched.

‘’Furthermore, ad hoc supply of this kind utilizes capacity – human resources, infrastructure, cold chain – that could be directed towards long-term successful and sustainable rollout. It also dramatically increases the risks of expiry once doses with already short shelf-lives arrive in a country, which may have long-term repercussions for vaccine confidence,’’ read the statement.

Donations must enable countries to mobilise resources for rollout

According to the statement, the vaccine donations must be in such a way that the receiving country is able to mobilise resources for the rollout of the donated vaccine.

‘’Donations to COVAX, AVAT and African countries must be made in a way that allows countries to effectively mobilize domestic resources in support of rollout and enables long-term planning to increase coverage rates,’’ added the joint statement.

Standards for donating vaccines to Africa

Meanwhile, AVAT, Africa CDC and COVAX have set standards they want the international community to adhere to when donating vaccines to Africa.

‘’We call on the international community, particularly donors and manufacturers, to commit to this effort by adhering to the following standards, beginning from 1 January 2022:

Quantity and predictability: Donor countries should endeavour to release donated doses in large volumes and in a predictable manner, to reduce transaction costs. We acknowledge and welcome the progress being made in this area but note that the frequency of exceptions to this approach places an increased burden on countries, AVAT and COVAX.

Earmarking: These doses should be unearmarked for greatest effectiveness and to support long-term planning. Earmarking makes it far more difficult to allocate supply based on equity and to account for specific countries’ absorptive capacity. It also increases the risk that short shelf-life donations utilise countries’ cold chain capacity – a capacity that is then unavailable when AVAT or COVAX are allocating doses with longer shelf lives under their own purchase agreements.

Shelf life: As a default, donated doses should have a minimum of 10 weeks shelf life when they arrive in-country, with limited exceptions only where recipient countries indicate a willingness and ability to absorb doses with shorter shelf lives.

Early notice: Recipient countries need to be made aware of the availability of donated doses not less than 4 weeks before their tentative arrival in-country.

Response times: All stakeholders should seek to provide rapid response on essential information. This includes essential supply information from manufacturers (total volumes available for donation, shelf life, manufacturing site), confirmation of donation offers from donors and acceptance/refusal of allocations from countries. Last minute information can further complicate processes, increasing transaction costs, reducing available shelf life and increased risk of expiry.

Ancillaries: The majority of donations to date do not include the necessary vaccination supplies such as syringes and diluent, nor do they cover freight costs – meaning these have to be sourced separately – leading to additional costs, complexity and delay. Donated doses should be accompanied with all essential ancillaries to ensure rapid allocation and absorption.

AVAT, Africa CDC and COVAX remain committed to collaborating with donor countries, vaccine manufacturers and partners on ensuring these standards are upheld, as we continue to work together towards achieving Africa’s vaccination goals.

Improve quality of donated COVID-19 vaccines, international community told

Improve quality of donated COVID-19 vaccines, international community told