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COVID-19 vaccine: What is COVAX Facility and why does WHO want countries to join it?

Coronavirus vaccine update: AstraZeneca has signed a memorandum of understanding with WHO's COVAX Facility to supply 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | August 10, 2020 | Updated 15:27 IST
COVID-19 vaccine: What is COVAX Facility and why does WHO want countries to join it?
COVAX Facility aims to deliver two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021

Amid the surge in coronavirus cases, international public health agency World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries to join its COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility, a mechanism designed to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. The objective of COVAX facility, which had been formed in April, is to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval by the end of 2021.

As of now, significant progress has been achieved by the COVAX partners to date, with seven of the nine candidate vaccines supported by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) already in clinical trials. A memorandum of understanding with AstraZeneca also commits them to supply 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX.

As per the information available on WHO website, seventy-eight countries have submitted written expressions of interest to protect their populations and those of other nations through joining the COVAX Facility. The 75 countries, which would finance the vaccines from their own public finance budgets, have partnered with 92 lower-income countries to provide them access to COVID-19 vaccines through Gavi's COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

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Together, this group of up to 165 countries represents more than 60 per cent of the world's population. Among the group are representatives from every continent and more than half of the world's G20 economies, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

What is COVAX Facility?

The COVAX Facility along with Gavi COVAX AMC, is designed to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world, rich and poor. 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.

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The Gavi COVAX AMC, which was launched in June this year, is also backed by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates' foundation which has been working to make COVID-19 vaccine available to poor countries. The AMC has already raised close to $600 million against an initial target of $2 billion from high income donors as well as the private sector.  

The goal is by the end of 2021 to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines to all participating countries including the 92 AMC-eligible economies.

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Once a vaccine will be approved by regulatory agencies or prequalified by the WHO, the COVAX Facility will then purchase these vaccines with a goal to try and initially provide doses for an average of 20 per cent of each country's population, focusing on health care workers and the most vulnerable groups. Further doses will be made available based on financing, country need, vulnerability and potential threat, and a buffer of doses will also be maintained for emergency and humanitarian use.

By Chitranjan Kumar

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