The European chief for the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday said the delay in vaccine production and distribution is a "real issue", and added that the manufacturers are working round the clock to fill the gaps. WHO regional director Hans Kluge, while speaking to reporters, called on governments and manufacturers to work together to address the delays in vaccine rollout. Kluge said he is confident that vaccine producers will make up for the current delays by extra production in the future.
Kluge said that "telephone lines are very hot" at the moment with the phones ringing non-stop over the vaccine delays in the region. Kluge said that solidarity is "key" right now as he acknowledged the pressure leaders might be feeling to vaccinate their people amid rising cases and emerging new variants. Kluge added that he had spoken to EU President Charles Michel and Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides regarding the shortage in vaccine distribution, calling it a reality for the time being.
The EU's ongoing vaccination drive suffered a major setback last week when AstraZeneca informed that the distribution of vaccines will likely be delayed because of production issues. American firm Pfizer also reported production delays at its European sites. It came when the bloc was already dealing with delayed distribution from Pfizer-BioNTech, which is currently supplying vaccines to the EU for its inoculation campaign. AstraZeneca has said that production issues will likely mean that it will only be able to deliver 31 million doses to the EU in the first quarter, 40% less than its promised doses of 80 million.
Meanwhile, Kluge highlighted that 35 countries in Europe have already started inoculating people, with over 25 million doses administered so far. Kluge also warned against the new COVID-19 variants, saying 33 countries in the region have reported cases of the variant initially identified in the UK, while 16 have reported the one first identified in South Africa. Kluge also praised the recent restrictions imposed by several countries in Europe, saying it has contributed to a significant decline in new cases. "30 countries have seen a significant decrease in 14-day cumulative incidence. This is 7 more countries than 2 weeks ago," Kluge said.
(Inputs and Image Credit: AP)