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* Health officials decry vaccine gap between rich and poor
* Australia orders alternative to AstraZeneca for under-50s
* Hong Kong delays delivery of AstraZeneca shots
By Stephanie Nebehay and Douglas Busvine
April 9 (Reuters) - Doses of vaccines rejected as countriesfine-tune their inoculation campaigns will go to poor countrieswhere possible to counter a "shocking imbalance" indistribution, international health officials said on Friday.
Authorities in Australia and Greece became the latest torecommend alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine foryounger people over fears of possible very rare blood clots,while Hong Kong delayed deliveries.
The city said it had enough alternatives and did not want towaste these shots while global supplies were short.
Australia's decision effectively put paid to plans to haveits population vaccinated by the end of October, highlightingthe delicate public health balancing act the issue has created.
Giving alternative vaccines to younger recipients will delayinoculation campaigns by around a month in Australia, France andBritain, science information and analytics company Airfinityforecast after crunching the numbers for those countries.
Millions of doses of the AstraZeneca shot have been safelyadministered around the world but some governments have limitedits use to older age groups as a precaution while cases ofclotting are investigated.
The World Health Organization said most countries did nothave anywhere near enough shots of any vaccine to cover healthworkers and others at high risk from exposure to the virus,which has killed almost 3 million people around the world.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said highincome countries had on average vaccinated one in four peoplewhile in low income countries it was one in more than 500.
"There remains a shocking imbalance in the distribution ofvaccines," he told a press briefing on Friday.
The WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance's COVAX mechanism aims toensure vaccines reach poorer states. Asked whether COVAX wasnegotiating for doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that had beenshunned, GAVI alliance head Seth Berkley said the Anglo-Swedishcompany's supply chain had "picked up".
"As countries decide they are going to prioritise onevaccine or another, that may free up doses, and in so doing wewill try to make sure those doses are made available withoutdelay, if countries are willing to make that happen," he said.
DIFFERING AGE LIMITS
Australia said it had doubled its order of the Pfizershot after health authorities recommended those under 50take it instead of AstraZeneca. Greece followed Britain inrecommending people under 30 get an alternative shot.
AstraZeneca said it was working with regulators "tounderstand the individual cases, epidemiology and possiblemechanisms that could explain these extremely rare events".