According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the global COVAX initiative can now count 172 national economies and nine potential COVID-19 vaccines under its banner, seven of which have entered clinical trials.
The goal of the COVAX facility is to bring the pandemic to heel through equitable access to an eventual vaccine, and the recognition that this will require broad, collective commitment. Of those involved, 80 potentially self-financing countries have submitted interest in the COVAX facility, with 92 additional low and middle-income countries eligible for support.
“COVID-19 is an unprecedented global health challenge that can only be met with unprecedented cooperation between governments, researchers, manufacturers, and multilateral partners,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “By pooling resources and acting in solidarity through the ACT Accelerator and the COVAX Facility, we can ensure that once a vaccine is available for COVID-19, it’s available equitably to all countries.”
That portfolio includes nine vaccines supported by the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), all meant to be distributed to higher-income and lower-income countries alike. While interested countries are not currently bound, they must commit by Sept. 18 and begin submitting upfront payments no later than Oct. 9. This buying power will then be pooled to guarantee volume of a range of candidates, allowing experienced vaccine manufacturers to engage large-scale production of these new vaccines.
Another nine vaccine candidates remain under evaluation by the initiative.
“A vaccine is our best route to ending the acute phase of the pandemic, and the COVAX effort is the best way to get there,” Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said. “For higher-income countries, it represents a win-win: not only will you be guaranteed access to the world’s largest portfolio of vaccines, you will also be negotiating as part of a global consortium, bringing down prices and ensuring truly global access. Signing up to the COVAX Facility gives each country its best chance at protecting the most vulnerable members of their populations – which in turn gives the world its best chance at mitigating the toll this pandemic has taken on individuals, communities and the global economy.”
COVAX represents the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator run by CEPI, Gavi, and WHO. Together, they partner with vaccine manufacturers in developed and developing countries, and CEPI guides the COVAX vaccine research and development efforts. Their goal is the development of three safe and effective vaccines that will be made available to countries participating in the facility. So far, governments, vaccine manufacturers, organizations, and individuals have put up $1.4 billion towards vaccine research and development, though the partners have called for another $1 billion in investment.
By the end of 2021, COVAX hopes to deliver 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification standards. They will be offered equally to all participating countries, distributed proportionally by their populations. Healthcare workers and other vulnerable groups will be prioritized.