- COVAX aims to ensure global access to vaccines against COVID-19
- COVAX is initiated by WHO, Gavi and CEPI
- COVAX aims to deliver 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021
New Delhi: When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus as a pandemic, many health experts across the globe highlighted the need for a vaccine to prevent the virus. Ten months in, it is quite apparent that the world is waiting for a vaccine as all eyes are set on the on-going trials for various vaccine candidates. While the pharma companies and research institutes work on the development of vaccines against COVID-19, COVAX initiative aims to ensure that everyone in the world has access to them.
Triggered by global leaders’ call for a solution to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and equitable access to them for people in all countries, COVAX was launched in April by the WHO, Gavi Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
As per WHO, COVAX initiative aims to ensure global access to vaccines against the novel coronavirus by buying and distributing vaccination shots fairly around the world.
The initiative wants to bring together governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. COVAX’s aim is to procure and deliver 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021, said WHO.
The global collaboration with participation of 156 countries and economies represents 64 per cent of the global population.
These countries include 64 higher-income economies, which are self-financing the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines once it is available. However, 92 low-and-middle-income economies are eligible for support for the procurement of vaccines through COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). AMC is coordinated by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance.
According to WHO, the primary focus of the Gavi COVAX AMC is to ensure that the 92 middle- and lower-income countries that cannot fully afford to pay for COVID-19 vaccines themselves get equal access to COVID-19 vaccines as higher-income self-financing countries and at the same time.
With the Commitment Agreements (with the countries) secured, the COVAX Facility will now start signing formal agreements with vaccine manufacturers and developers, which are partners in the COVAX effort, to secure the doses needed to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021. This is in addition to an ongoing effort to raise funding for both R&D and for the procurement of vaccines for lower-income countries via the Gavi COVAX AMC, said WHO in a statement.
Once any of the COVAX portfolio vaccines have successfully undergone clinical trials and proved themselves to be both safe and effective and have received regulatory approval, available doses will be allocated to all participating countries at the same rate, proportional to their total population size. A small buffer of about 5 per cent of the total number of available doses will be kept aside to build a stockpile to help with acute outbreaks and to support humanitarian organisations, for example, to vaccinate refugees who may not otherwise have access, Gavi explains.
Even though self-financing participants can request for enough doses to vaccinate between 10-50 per cent of their population, no country will receive enough doses to vaccinate more than 20 per cent of its population until all countries in the financing group have been offered this amount, it adds.
As per the organisation, this strategy should lead to lower vaccine costs for everyone.
Through COVAX, governments will work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere. Wealthy countries that join COVAX will finance the vaccine purchases from their national budgets, and will partner with the poorer nations supported through voluntary donations, to ensure vaccines are delivered equitably, Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi explained.
Participating wealthy countries are also free to procure vaccines through bilateral deals and other plans, he added.
The WHO goes on to further describe COVAX as an “invaluable insurance policy” for all countries to secure access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are developed and approved. WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said,
COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis that demands an unprecedented global response. Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery. Working together through the COVAX Facility is not charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests to control the pandemic and accelerate the global economic recovery.
CEPI is leading the COVAX vaccine research and development work, which aims to develop at least three safe and effective vaccines which can be made available to economies participating in the COVAX Facility.
Some of the countries that have joined COVAX include Canada, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Norway and Oman, among others.
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