Assistant Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, says additional agreements are being negotiated with two coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine manufacturers for inclusion in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility.
Speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (December 16), Dr. Barbosa said those agreements, when concluded, will bring the number to four, following those reached with manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, which resulted from two initial invitations for entities to submit bids for the provision of vaccines.
He pointed out that the third phase of the overall vaccine bidding process, being jointly spearheaded by PAHO and UNICEF on behalf on WHO, commenced on November 23.
Dr. Barbosa anticipates positive responses from more producers when that phase concludes on December 23.
“After that, we [expect] to have [significant] quantities of vaccines for delivery in 2021,” he said.
In light of the initial Pfizer rollout in the United States, the Assistant Director remains optimistic that “we will be highly successful [in meeting] our expectations” regarding vaccine deployment across the Americas.
“That is to say [we anticipate that] by March of next year, we will have the vaccines arriving in the countries,” he added.
The COVAX Facility is designed to accelerate equitable access by countries globally to appropriate, safe and efficacious vaccines.
Dr. Barbosa also advised that PAHO has been assisting with member countries’ vaccine deployment preparations.
He indicated that the support has included meetings between representatives of the Organization’s Regional Technical Advisory Group and countries’ health authorities regarding the status of their respective immunisation programmes.
“We are discussing with the countries… how to prepare their plans and strengthen their capacities to roll out the vaccines [and how] to implement the vaccination campaign, when the vaccines are available,” he outlined.
Additionally, Dr. Barbosa said PAHO has provided countries with a checklist tool, covering more than 100 key areas that they need, in order to assess their state of readiness and, in the process, identify gaps where these may exist and plug these.
He remains optimistic, however, that PAHO member countries will fare well when the campaign gets under way.
“The countries in the Americas have had very successful experiences in conducting massive immunisation campaigns against [outbreaks such as] measles. So, this [vaccination campaign] is not a new situation for them,” Dr. Barbosa added.