By SAT News Desk/WHO Media
MELBOURNE, 16 July 2020: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rattle the globe, the race to develop a vaccine to curb it has been gathering pace. It’s not clear which country will have it first but the fear of it being cornered by rich countries is a topic being discussed vocally. Countries have been trying to develop their own vaccine fearing a scramble once a success story emerges.
A report in ‘USA Today’ (July 13, 2020) tells us “..what happened in 2009 when Australia demanded biotech manufacturer CSL fulfill domestic needs for H1N1 vaccine before any could be sent to the USA.”
So, herein comes the importance of ” The COVAX Facility, and the AMC within it is designed to guarantee rapid, fair, and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world, rich and poor, to make rapid progress towards slowing the pandemic.
Seventy-five countries have submitted expressions of interest to the COVAX Facility, joining up to 90 further countries which could be supported by the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
Interest from governments representing more than 60% of the world’s population offers ‘tremendous vote of confidence’ in the effort to ensure truly global access to COVID-19 vaccines, once developed”, says a WHO media release (15 July 2020).
The 75 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. Among the group are representatives from every continent and more than half of the world’s G20 economies.
“COVAX is the only truly global solution to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “For the vast majority of countries, whether they can afford to pay for their own doses or require assistance, it means receiving a guaranteed share of doses and avoiding being pushed to the back of the queue, as we saw during the H1N1 pandemic a decade ago. Even for those countries that are able to secure their own agreements with vaccine manufacturers, this mechanism represents, through its world-leading portfolio of vaccine candidates, a means of reducing the risks associated with individual candidates failing to show efficacy or gain licensure.”
The COVAX Facility forms a key part of the COVAX pillar (COVAX) of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO, working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers. COVAX aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
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 prioritizing 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.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, like every health crisis, also presents us with opportunities,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist. “A vaccine that is affordable and accessible to all will help us address systemic health inequalities. We need all countries to support COVAX to achieve this goal and bring an end to the acute phase of the pandemic.”
More about COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator: https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator