In early March, more than 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived at a warehouse in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, a bustling city of 15 million people, in a colossal country of 100 million.
Shipped to the country through COVAX, a multi-organization global initiative aimed at equitable access to vaccines, the delivery was touted as “part of the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history … part of a first wave of supplies that will continue over the next few weeks.”
As of this writing, nearly two months later, some of those vaccines have finally begun being distributed. In fact, vaccines are sitting unused in docks and warehouses across the developing world — undelivered, and with fast-approaching expiration dates.
It’s clear, and it’s tragic: last-mile delivery of the best tool we have to end the pandemic is failing. Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), some already facing a dearth of vaccine supply, are now contending with challenges related to human resources and training, mistrust and misinformation among citizens, logistics and cold chain capacity, and operating environments with security challenges.