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Swiss strike deal for COVAX to get 1 mln Moderna doses more quickly

Credit: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN

Switzerland has become the first country to swap places in the supply queue for COVID-19 vaccines, allowing 1 million doses of the Moderna shot to go first to the COVAX dose-sharing programme, the GAVI vaccine alliance said on Wednesday.

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Switzerland has become the first country to swap places in the supply queue for COVID-19 vaccines, allowing 1 million doses of the Moderna MRNA.O shot to go first to the COVAX dose-sharing programme, the GAVI vaccine alliance said on Wednesday.

GAVI, which leads COVAX's procurement and delivery of supplies to low and middle income countries, called for other governments to "slot-swap" and work with manufacturers to ensure COVAX purchase agreements can be fulfilled as a priority.

"Through this collaboration, 1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine originally planned to be delivered to Switzerland will instead be made available to COVAX in Q4 2021. Switzerland will then take COVAX’s place in the queue, and receive these doses later in 2022," the Geneva-based GAVI said in a statement.

Switzerland's voluntary vaccination campaign has stalled, with just over 65% of the population fully vaccinated.

COVAX, which is also backed by the World Health Organization (WHO), has delivered some 507 million doses to 144 countries since February.

But its pipeline was stymied for much of the year after India halted vaccine exports in mid-April due to its own severe epidemic. The Serum Institute of India (SII), the world's biggest vaccine maker which produces a licensed version of the AstraZeneca AZN.L shot known as Covishield, was COVAX's main supplier.

The resumption of India supplying COVID-19 vaccines to the COVAX platform after eight months was delayed on Monday when Nepal requested a postponement, two sources told Reuters.

"Despite initial supply setbacks, deliveries continue to accelerate steadily and will continue to do so through the end of the year and into 2022," GAVI said, without giving details.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay Editing by Mark Potter)

((Stephanie.Nebehay@thomsonreuters.com; +41 58 306 2161; Reuters Messaging: stephanie.nebehay.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net; twitter @StephNebehay))

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