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Friday, October 22nd, 2021

COVAX Facility builds coalition of more than 160 countries interested in equitable COVID-19 vaccines

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The COVAX Facility — an organization created to guarantee quick and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines throughout the world — has garnered the interest of 75 countries and plans to support as many as 90 lower-income countries through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance’s Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

All 75 countries that submitted those expressions would fund any vaccines made through their public finance budgets and support the other 90 lower-income countries through voluntary donations. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that these countries represent more than 50 percent of the world’s population, with every continent represented and more than half of the G20 economies participating. The organization called it a tremendous vote of confidence in ongoing efforts.

While non-binding, the interest statements help the organization to move forward with discussions on specifics. Countries interested in funding vaccines would have to provide upfront payments and a further commitment to purchase doses by the end of August if they want access to COVAX.

“COVAX is the only truly global solution to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said. “For the vast majority of countries, whether they can afford to pay for their own doses or require assistance, it means receiving a guaranteed share of doses and avoiding being pushed to the back of the queue, as we saw during the H1N1 pandemic a decade ago.”

No one would be left out, or be left on the hook if a single vaccine failed. Berkley noted that even countries capable of reaching their own agreements with manufacturers would be guaranteed their share, to reduce the risk of individual candidates’ potential for failure. Healthcare workers would be prioritized first, and then efforts would be expanded to cover 20 percent of the population of participating countries, with further doses issued based on a country’s need, vulnerability, and COVID-19 threat.

WHO, Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) all co-lead COVAX. As part of its efforts, COVAX invests in manufacturing upfront to get vaccines deployed at scale as quickly as possible. Acquisition and buying power is pooled for all involved, with an end goal of delivering 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021.

The AMC was launched by Gavi in June, as a means of financing to incentivize vaccine manufacturers into producing enough quantities of eventual COVID-19 vaccines to guarantee access for developing countries.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, like every health crisis, also presents us with opportunities,” Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, said. “A vaccine that is affordable and accessible to all will help us address systemic health inequalities. We need all countries to support COVAX to achieve this goal and bring an end to the acute phase of the pandemic.”