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As Covid ravages poorer countries, rich nations come back to life

Many countries prepared for the kind of child vaccination campaigns they run regularly were shocked to find they couldn’t rely on people to just show up for a coronavirus vaccine.

“Many vaccine hesitation issues could be addressed, if not all, if timely operational funding is in place,” said Benjamin Schreiber, Covid-19 vaccine coordinator at UNICEF who leads Covax delivery efforts.

However, in a race to fund vaccine purchases, the money to get them into people’s arms has been overlooked. Of the 92 poorer countries Covax serves, eight have cut their health budgets due to virus-related economic losses, and some others are struggling to partially fund their health systems because they are not eligible for grants or more generous loans, Mr. Schreiber said.

The World Bank has pledged $ 12 billion to launch vaccines, but has so far approved $ 2 billion for projects. In mid-March, the bank found that fewer than a third of low- and middle-income countries said they had plans to train enough vaccines or campaigns to combat vaccine reluctance, said Mamta Murthi, vice president of the bank on human development.

The needs of many countries are even simpler. Some cannot pay to print vaccination cards. Malawi, which plans to destroy 16,000 doses that arrived just before they expired, is struggling to meet lunch allowances for health workers traveling from one facility to another to administer vaccines.

The outlook is uncertain. More doses will create more confidence in the vaccine, said Freddy Nkosi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo country director for VillageReach, a nonprofit health organization. But if India’s outbreak continues to intensify, the executive director of the Serum Institute of India recently said, “We have to keep shipping to India and nowhere else.”

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