COVAX announced last week that a new purchase agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech will secure up to 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for rollout, offering the potential to deliver at least 2 billion doses of vaccines, equitably, by year’s end.
“Today marks another milestone for COVAX: pending regulatory approval for the AstraZeneca/Oxford candidate and pending the successful conclusion of the supply agreement for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, we anticipate being able to begin deliveries of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines by the end of February,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which leads COVAX procurement and delivery. “This is not just significant for COVAX, it is a major step forward for equitable access to vaccines and an essential part of the global effort to beat this pandemic. We will only be safe anywhere if we are safe everywhere.”
At least 1.3 billion doses will go to 92 lower-income countries of the 190 economies currently participating in the COVAX facility. With the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and Gavi at the helm, preparations are underway to deliver vaccines to economies eligible for support through the COVAX AMC. Gavi has made $150 million available from its core funding for initial catalytic support for preparedness and delivery.
Beyond this, nearly 150 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine candidate should be available in the first quarter of this year, thanks to agreements with the Serum Institute of India (SII) and AstraZeneca. This results from an exercised option for 100 million doses with SII and an existing agreement with AstraZeneca for at least 50 million further doses. However, all of this is pending WHO Emergency Use Listing of the vaccine. A decision is expected in February.
“The progress in vaccine development so far has been extraordinary, and it is clear that we are now assembling the tools we need to bring the acute phase of the pandemic to an end,” Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) CEO Richard Hatchett said. “But we cannot afford to slow our efforts given the speed with which this pandemic continues to wreak havoc. The emergence of new variants of COVID-19 puts into sharp focus the need for us to be one step ahead of the virus by continuing to invest in vaccine R&D – specifically for next-generation vaccine candidates and to be ready for strain changes in existing vaccines – to ensure we have the tools to meet the needs of all populations in all countries for the long term.”
CEPI is a co-lead of COVAX currently in negotiations to secure further doses through existing R&D agreements. Presently, COVAX anticipates being able to provide doses capable of protecting at least 20 percent of each participating population by the end of the year.