Dispatches

COVID-19: Germany set to donate vaccine doses to other countries

COVAX has been set up to organize the distribution of vaccines to developing countries.
Deutsche Welle 30 July 2021 13:26 IST
Updated: 30 July 2021 13:38 IST

With unused doses in danger of expiring, Germany is getting ready to make its first international vaccine donations.

Some 60 per cent of Germans have received at least one COVID jab, with another 100 million or so vaccine doses expected in the third quarter from July to September. But the willingness to be vaccinated has waned. Availability currently exceeds demand — so vaccine supplies are available for donation. 

The German government has pledged to donate at least 30 million vaccine doses of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines by the end of 2021. But the vaccine doses set to be donated must first be collected. There are not only enough vaccines, but they have also already been distributed to clinics and vaccination centers. And these facilities have unused vaccine supplies that must now be returned to federal storage facilities.

The plan for the return, however, has not been finalized. According to the Health Ministry, vaccine supplies must have their quality and expiration date checked before being sent elsewhere.

Individual medical practices will not be able to donate vaccine doses abroad on their own. Recently some physicians complained that vaccine doses that were urgently needed abroad were in danger of expiring in Germany.

"Medical practices, municipalities and federal states are not permitted to distribute COVID-19 vaccines procured centrally by the Health Ministry to other countries or projects. That right is reserved exclusively for the federal government," the ministry said in response to DW.

Majority of donations to go to COVAX

COVAX is the abbreviation for "COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access." The global vaccination initiative aims to reduce the inequality in coronavirus vaccinations between industrialized and developing countries. Recently, Spain reported it had started donating vaccine supplies.

The German government has decided that four out of every five vaccine donations are to go to COVAX. COVAX will then decide for itself which regions of the world they will be sent to.

Bread for the World, the development agency of the Protestant churches in Germany, has urged haste. In Africa, only 1 per cent of the population is currently vaccinated. The organization told DW that it is important to act quickly, as a severe third wave claims lives in Africa.

Criticism of donor 'vaccine diplomacy'

Germany has decided to give 20 per cent of its donations directly to individual states. Recipients are to include Ukraine, Armenia and Namibia. Three million vaccine doses are earmarked for the Western Balkans. It is not clear when exactly the donations will begin.

Bilateral donations are not uncontroversial. Critics accuse donor countries of using "vaccine diplomacy" to serve their strategic goals. But Bread for the World does not see the situation as especially problematic. Bilateral donations are "not ideal, but if they are used in regions where there are no other vaccines, then they are better than nothing."

Bread for the World considers donations to be only a small part of the solution.

Only an "expansion of production capacities" will "get us there." First steps have been taken to create more production facilities in countries with limited vaccine supplies. But the issue of releasing the appropriate licenses will remain on the agenda. India and South Africa have been demanding the move since October 2020.

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