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What is COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, what does it do?

COVAX, formally known as The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, is a global collaboration aimed at speeding up the development, production and equitable distribution of new vaccines. Countries that sign on to COVAX will get access to a broad portfolio of new vaccine candidates to combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Even though there is a global effort to distribute vaccines to poorer countries, some of the world’s largest countries which include the United States and Russia, do not intend to support the effort. COVAX supports research and development of new vaccines by investing in them and negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies. The objective of COVAX is to have 2 billion doses to distribute by 2021, which should be sufficient to help countries vaccinate 20% of their populations and end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, reiterated his call for a “quantum leap in support” for the global vaccine plan, saying it needs an additional $15bn in funding by the end of the year. Whilst China, as a country with the biggest economy, has signed in to support the facility as the European countries. In the United States and many poorer nations around the world, the lack of backing could have devastating consequences for accessing a COVID-19 vaccine. That is because the U.S. is not going to have access to initiative-secured vaccines. COVAX may also lack the funding it needs to help poorer nations manage their epidemics, allowing the virus to continue to circle the globe.

The wealthy countries that join COVAX will finance the purchase of vaccines from their national budgets and will partner with 92 poorer countries supported by voluntary donations to ensure the equitable delivery of vaccines. Wealthy countries participating are also free to procure vaccines through bilateral deals and other plans. On Tuesday, the United States said it would not join COVAX because of the objection of the Trump administration to WHO involvement, a move described as “disappointing” by some critics. However, the European Union said that its Member States could purchase potential COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX in what appeared to be a change of position.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization, or WHO. Gavi, a public-private partnership, vaccinates children against deadly diseases around the world; CEPI helps develop vaccines and the WHO works with 194 member states to promote global health. Together these groups have raised US$700 million toward an initial target of $2 billion to support the COVAX facility.

The COVAX Facility pools the buying power of participants, by getting vaccine producers to produce the vaccines on a scale and making risky early investments in production capacity. The idea is that COVAX will ensure rapid access to new vaccines as they are developed, by pooling these resources. Gavi is also helping some poorer countries get ready to distribute vaccines outside the facility.
The global pandemic has already caused hundreds of thousands of lives to be lost and has disrupted billions of more lives. In addition to reducing the tragic loss of life and helping to bring the pandemic under control, the introduction of a vaccine will prevent the global economy from losing US$ 375 billion every month. The only way to mitigate the public health and economic impact of the pandemic is to have equitable global access to a vaccine, specifically to protect health care workers and those most at risk. WHO emphasizes the statement that the development of a COVID-19 vaccine is the most pressing challenge of our time, and no one wins the race until everyone wins.

By Jumana Jabeer

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