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Asia: Vaccines run dry as COVID surges in Asia to new record death levels

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Kuala Lumpur/Kathmandu/Delhi/Geneva, 21 May 2021 – Instant action is needed by governments and pharmaceutical companies to fix a COVID-19 vaccine supply crisis in Asia as countries run out of stocks while suffering grim record daily death tolls.

Nepal and Bangladesh have run out of vaccines. A majority of countries in Asia are struggling with vaccine shortage while India, Nepal, Malaysia and the Philippines all have hospitals full to the brim with COVID-19 patients.

Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific Director, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said:

“Sharing vaccine doses between countries and via COVAX is now the only option that can address the emergency vaccine shortage in these critical, coming months.”

Many richer countries have purchased enough COVID-19 vaccines to immunize every person several times over while most countries in Asia only have a fraction of the lifesaving vaccines needed.

“We welcome that richer countries are talking about shipping excess vaccine stocks to Asia and other parts of the world, but we need to see this talk turned into lightning speed action.

“Asia is now the epicentre of this global pandemic. Tens of thousands of lives are being lost each week and vaccines must be available so that we can prevent further terrible tolls in the weeks and months ahead.”

Vaccination rates are very low in many countries across Asia amid record COVID surges. India and Indonesia have both vaccinated around 3% of their populations while the Philippines has only fully vaccinated around 0.6 per cent.

Greater efforts are needed to support the rapid distribution of vaccines in countries across Asia and to the most at-risk and vulnerable groups.

“There has been a global surge of support for countries affected by this terrible latest COVID wave that continues to crash into Asia, yet we must do much more to reduce this disastrous death toll. We have the global resources to protect everyone from this killer virus.

“Vaccines have become more critical than ever as we are seeing COVID-19 variants spread faster, claiming more lives by the minute.

“If pharmaceutical companies and governments work together to enable the manufacture and supply of COVID-19 vaccines everywhere they are needed, we can look forward to a much better supply of vaccines towards the end of this year. We need to share vaccines now to prevent an even worse catastrophe emerging across Asia in the coming weeks and months.”

The IFRC is seeking vital funding for its global emergency COVID-19 appeal, with around 50% of the appeal covered so far. The funds are crucial to support the lifesaving actions of the IFRC and member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:

In Kuala Lumpur: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, antony.balmain@ifrc.org

In Geneva: Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, teresa.goncalves@ifrc.org