Many countries, prepared for the sort of childhood vaccination campaigns they carry out regularly, were startled to find that they could not rely on people simply to show up for a coronavirus vaccine.
“A lot of vaccine hesitancy issues could be addressed, though not all of them overcome, with timely operational funding in place,” said Benjamin Schreiber, the coordinator for Covid-19 vaccines at UNICEF, which is leading Covax delivery efforts.
Amid a race to fund vaccine purchases, though, money for getting them into people’s arms has been overlooked. Of the 92 poorer nations being supplied by Covax, eight have cut their health budgets because of virus-related economic losses, and several others are struggling to fund their health systems in part because they do not qualify for grants or more generous loans, Mr. Schreiber said.
The World Bank has promised $12 billion for vaccine rollouts, but has so far approved $2 billion in projects. In mid-March, the bank found that less than a third of low- and middle-income nations reported having plans to train enough vaccinators or campaigns in place to fight vaccine hesitancy, said Mamta Murthi, the bank’s vice president for human development.
Many countries’ needs are even simpler. Some cannot pay to print immunization cards. Malawi, which is planning to destroy 16,000 doses that arrived only shortly before they expired, has struggled to cover lunch allowances for health workers traveling from one facility to another to give vaccines.
The outlook is uncertain. More doses will breed more vaccine confidence, said Freddy Nkosi, the country director in the Democratic Republic of Congo for VillageReach, a health nonprofit. But if India’s outbreak keeps surging, the chief executive of the Serum Institute of India said recently, “We are going to have to keep supplying to India, and not anywhere else.”