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Needles and vials of vaccine. Photo: Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto via Getty Images

COVAX, the UN-backed program aimed at addressing COVID vaccine inequality, cut its forecast for doses available in 2021 by roughly a quarter.

Why it matters: The forecast led the World Health Organization (WHO) to double down on calls for wealthier nations to wait until at least the end of the year to administer booster shots so lower-income nations can vaccinate their populations.

By the numbers: In June, COVAX said it expected access to 1.9 billion doses by the end of 2021. On Wednesday, the program lowered that number to 1.425 billion.

Details: In recent months, COVAX has had to deal with the Indian government's decision to abruptly halt vaccine exports, production issues with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson and a delay in clearing the Novavax shot for administration, the program said.

  • It's also had to deal with wealthier nations' vaccine hoarding.
  • "COVAX is making strenuous efforts to address and mitigate these risks,” the program said, citing negotiations with the Indian government and efforts to convince manufacturers to prioritize COVAX over individual nations.
  • It also called on donors and manufacturers to "[e]xpand, accelerate, and systematize dose donations."

The big picture: 90% of high-income countries have vaccinated at least 10% of their populations, and over 70% have vaccinated at least 40%, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a video message Wednesday.

  • But no low-income country has reached either target, according to Tedros.
  • "I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers," he said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Don't forget: The Biden administration has faced pressure to send more vaccines abroad, but insists that choosing boosters over vaccine donations is a "false choice."

Go deeper

Updated 17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Dec 17, 2021 - Health

Biden warns of "winter of severe illness" for unvaccinated Americans

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden warned unvaccinated Americans on Thursday that the Omicron COVID-19 variant will start to spread more rapidly in the U.S. if they do not receive their shots soon.

Driving the news: Research shows that Omicron is spreading extremely quickly, even among vaccinated people, though experts expect COVID-19 vaccines to protect against severe disease. Researchers estimate that it takes two to three days for the number of Omicron cases to double, per Axios' Caitlin Owens.

Fauci: It's not too late to get boosted for the holidays

Anthony Fauci during a Dec. 9 meeting with President Biden and the White House Covid-19 Response Team on the Omicron variant. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci tells Axios that public health officials are urging people to get COVID-19 vaccine boosters in light of waning antibody immunity and rising infections from Delta.

Driving the news: The Omicron variant is also now spreading in the United States. It's been shown to be highly transmissible and more able to evade vaccines, but a third shot or booster of an mRNA vaccine re-ups protection against Delta and Omicron, Fauci says.

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