JAKARTA, Indonesia — The World Health Organization says countries in the Asia-Pacific region are not guaranteed to have early access to COVID-19 shots and urged them to adopt a long-term approach to the pandemic.
WHO Regional Director Dr. Takeshi Kasai told reporters in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, that the development of safe and effective vaccines is one thing. Producing them in adequate quantities and reaching everyone who needs them is another.
Dr. Socorro Escalante, WHO’s coordinator for essential medicines and health technologies, said that while some countries that have independent vaccine purchase agreements might start vaccination campaigns in the coming months, others could see vaccination begin in the middle or late 2021.
“It’s important to emphasize that most, if not all, the countries in the Western Pacific region are a part of the COVAX Facility,” said Escalante. “Within the COVAX Facility we are expecting that the vaccines will be coming in on the second quarter of 2021.”
COVAX was set up by WHO, vaccines alliance GAVI and CEPI, a global coalition to fight epidemics, in an effort to ensure equitable access to vaccines across the world.
WHO representatives also urged that high-risk groups should be prioritized for vaccination as vaccines will only be available in limited quantities.