African countries are in line to receive the first batches of coronavirus vaccines in the first quarter of the year, a scientist at the World Health Organization said in a virtual briefing in Geneva.

“In the second and third quarters of this year is when we are really going to start seeing volumes,” Soumya Swaminathan said.

The vaccines will be distributed under the COVAX scheme that is backed by the WHO, GAVI the vaccine alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. COVAX has raised $6 billion so far and ordered 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines with options on 1 billion more.

With wealthy nations dominating early deliveries, however, the WHO fears scant remaining stockpiles could leave 92 lower- and lower-middle income nations out in the cold.

Swaminathan said at least 13 manufacturers had expressed interest in supplying COVAX and five were in discussions with WHO. Several vaccines were under assessment by its regulatory team.

WHO Assistant Director-General Mariangela Simao noted that 38 of the 46 countries that had started vaccinations were high- income countries, while the world needed to ensure all have access to safe and effective vaccines.

“This is not happening now in January but it is happening quite soon. We hope to have good news for you on this in February of this year,” she said.

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