COVAX for equitable access to vaccine

August 12, 2020 0 By FM

As global efforts to develop a vaccine to blunt the COVID-19 pandemic has started bearing fruits, it is now clear that some populations are bound to get vaccine supplies before others. There is a widespread concern that wealthier nations will monopolise COVID-19 vaccines, as it happened during the 2009 swine flu pandemic. 

In an effort to stall such a possibility, a collaboration called COVAX — led by CEPI, the WHO and Gavi, a global non-profit group focused on vaccine delivery — aims to raise $18 billion from high-and middle-income countries.

The fund would invest in developing and manufacturing the five to ten most promising vaccine candidates, with all contributors and poor countries ensured access to a proven vaccine for those who are at greatest risk, for example, health-care workers and the elderly.

For the vast majority of countries, whether they can afford to pay for their own doses or require assistance, COVAX means receiving a guaranteed share of doses and avoiding being pushed to the back of the queue, according to a CEPI statement.

Seventy-five countries have submitted expressions of interest to COVAX. These countries, which would finance the vaccines from their own public finance budgets, partner with up to 90 lower-income countries that could be supported through voluntary donations to Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). Together, this group of up to 165 countries represents more than 60% of the world’s population.

The goal of COVAX is by the end of 2021 to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification. These vaccines will be delivered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations, initially prioritising healthcare workers then expanding to cover 20% of the population of participating countries. 

Further doses will then be made available based on country need, vulnerability and COVID-19 threat. The COVAX Facility will also maintain a buffer of doses for emergency and humanitarian use, including dealing with severe outbreaks before they spiral out of control.

Distributing vaccines evenly all over the globe isn’t just the ethical thing to do. It is also critical to ending the crisis, health advocates say.