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COVID-19 vaccine: COVAX lines up 2 billion doses for worldwide use

PTI     December 19, 2020

Global vaccine partnership COVAX has lined up almost two billion doses of existing and candidate COVID-19 vaccines for use worldwide, including 200 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine through an agreement between the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, the Serum Institute of India and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

COVAX, the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level, announced on Friday that it had arrangements in place to access nearly two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine candidates on behalf of 190 participating economies.

This includes delivering at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses of approved vaccines in 2021 to the 92 low-and middle-income economies. This is fantastic news and a milestone in global health, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

This is a time for taking comfort that the end of the pandemic is in sight, but taking care that we do not let down our guard. We are all responsible for taking the measures to keep ourselves and each other safe, including during this holiday season. With today's news the light at the end of the tunnel has grown a little bit brighter, but we are not there yet. And we will only get there together, he said.

The goal of COVAX is to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification by the end of 2021. These vaccines will be offered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations, initially prioritising healthcare workers and then expanding to cover vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

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, the WHO said in a statement.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII), said in the statement that his company has signed for a 100 million doses of Novavax and another 100 million doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines with COVAX, with an option of extending it by 900 million doses.

The advance purchase commitments under COVAX initiative is encouraging as it will further bolster our fight and ensure equitable access at the most affordable price from Serum Institute of India, he said.

For the vast majority of these deals, COVAX has guaranteed access to a portion of the first wave of production, followed by volume scales as further supply becomes available. The deals will enable all participating economies to have access to doses in the first half of 2021, with first deliveries anticipated to begin in the first quarter of 2021.

Before Friday's announcement, COVAX had already lined up more than 1 billion doses of vaccines under development for 2021. The new deals announced by COVAX include the signing of an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca for 170 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford candidate, and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Johnson & Johnson for 500 million doses of the Janssen candidate, which is currently being investigated as a single dose vaccine, the WHO said in a statement.

These deals are in addition to existing agreements COVAX has with SII for 200 million doses with options for up to 900 million doses more of either the AstraZeneca/Oxford or Novavax candidates, as well as a statement of intent for 200 million doses of the Sanofi/GSK vaccine candidate.

COVAX can now plan for the first deliveries of vaccines in the first quarter of 2021, with the first tranche of doses enough to protect health and social care workers delivered in the first half of 2021 to all participating economies who have requested doses in this timeframe, the WHO said.

This would be followed by further delivery of doses to all participants in the second half of the year targeting supply of doses equalling up to 20 per cent of participants' populations by the end of the year. Additional doses to reach higher coverage levels will then be available in 2022.

The COVAX Facility currently has 190 participating economies, including 98 higher-income economies and 92 low-and middle-income economies eligible to have their participation in the Facility supported via the financing mechanism known as the Gavi COVAX AMC. Of the 92 economies eligible to be supported by the COVAX AMC, 86 have now submitted detailed vaccine requests, offering the clearest picture yet on actual global demand for COVID-19 vaccines.

COVAX is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT Accelerator), a comprehensive plan to defeat the virus using diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

Also read: India to produce about 300 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine in 2021


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