KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says Asia faces a COVID-19 vaccine supply crisis amid grim record daily death tolls.
It said in a statement Friday that Nepal and Bangladesh have run out of vaccines while a majority of countries in the region are struggling with shortages. It says hospitals in India, Nepal, Malaysia and the Philippines are full to the brim with COVID-19 patients.
The organization said many richer countries have purchased enough vaccines to immunize every person several times over while most parts of Asia have only a fraction of that.
The group’s Asia Pacific director, Alexander Matheou, said sharing vaccine doses between countries and through the United Nations’ COVAX facility is now the only option to address the shortage and prevent a further catastrophe.
The Red Cross urged pharmaceutical companies and governments to work together to ensure better supply of vaccines in Asia, which is now the epicenter of the global pandemic with the most number of new cases.
It also called on rich countries to accelerate plans to ship out excess vaccine stocks. It said vaccines have become more critical with the spread of COVID-19 variants but vaccination rates remain very low in Asia.
India and Indonesia have both vaccinated around 3% of their populations while the Philippines has only fully vaccinated around 0.6%.