COVAX initiative secures deals for nearly 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines

On behalf of 190 participating economies, the global COVAX initiative has secured access to nearly 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine candidates and plans to begin dispensing those doses early next year to protect vulnerable groups.

While most of the vaccine candidates involved are still under development, COVAX is still growing its portfolio. Meanwhile, it intends to deliver at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to 92 low and middle-income economies eligible through the funding mechanism known as the Gavi COVAX AMC. This will allow targeting of up to 20 percent of the population by the end of 2021. For many of these deals, COVAX has already guaranteed access to a portion of the first production wave.

“This commitment is evidence that the world learned an important lesson from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic,” Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is one of the founders of COVAX, said. “Our research and development efforts have begun to pay off. We now have safe and effective vaccines that can protect against COVID-19 and a clear pathway to securing 2 billion doses for the populations at greatest risk all around the world. Securing the right of first refusal of successful vaccine production as part of R&D arrangements has helped guarantee equitable access to vaccines, a founding principle of CEPI.”

Among the deals that have pushed COVAX to this point were advance purchase agreements with AstraZeneca and a memorandum of understanding with Johnson & Johnson for 170 million doses and 500 million doses, respectively. Other existing agreements include the Serum Institute of India and Sanofi. More than 1 billion doses to be produced are operating under the aforementioned first right of refusal throughout 2021.

Beyond these significant inroads, the COVAX Facility has also published the Principles for Dose-Sharing, providing a foundation of higher-income economies to make additional supplies of vaccines available largely to AMC participants through the facility. The principles include that doses need to be safe and effective, available immediately, and provided in substantive volumes in 2021.

Additional doses, meant to reach higher coverage levels, will be made available in 2022.

“The arrival of vaccines is giving all of us a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said. “But we will only truly end the pandemic if we end it everywhere at the same time, which means it’s essential to vaccinate some people in all countries, rather than all people in some countries. And we must remember that vaccines will complement, but not replace, the many other tools we have in our toolbox to stop transmission and save lives. We must continue to use all of them.”

Still, COVAX estimates it will need another $6.8 billion in 2021 to complete its work. It raised $2 billion in 2020.

Chris Galford

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