Last updated 12 May 2021
Coming up with an effective vaccine to combat the spread of the coronavirus is only part of the equation; to turn back this epidemic, the world needs to come up with a plan to allow for fair, worldwide access to affordable COVID-19 vaccine.
Protecting the world from the coronavirus means ensuring an equal global distribution of vaccines. In the words of the World Health Organization (WHO), no one is safe until everyone is safe.
Thus, there is an urgent need for global collaboration to ensure the development of affordable vaccines along with their distribution to all those who require them.
What is COVAX?
Formally known as The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, COVAX is a global multilateral initiative to develop, manufacture and deploy COVID-19 vaccines on a fair and equitable basis.
Coordinated by the WHO in collaboration with the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the Coalition for Innovations in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), COVAX is a part of a larger mechanism called the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April 2020 in partnership with the European Commission and France as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the purpose of COVAX?
As mentioned above, COVAX aims to ensure the production and global distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. It functions as a funding mechanism that would assist in the facilitation and access to the COVID-19 vaccine for less-wealthy countries. By amassing resources of participating countries and utilizing their collective purchasing power, highly competitive prices can be acquired which will lead to the distribution of COVID vaccine among participating countries.
COVAX aims to provide two billion vaccine doses to people in 190 countries this year, ensuring at least 20 percent of populations are vaccinated. Most importantly, it aims to send vaccines to 92 lower-income countries at no cost.
COVAX is planning on investing in the development of at least nine vaccine candidates, secure lower-cost bulk access and distribute 2 billion doses to all participant countries by the end of this year.
To achieve this objective, the COVAX Facility and the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) have been formed which will serve as COVAX’s procurement and financing instruments, respectively.
What are COVAX Facility and AMC?
The main function of COVAX Facility is to maximize the chances of people in signatory countries to a quick, fair and safe access to COVID-19 vaccines as they become available. By joining the Facility, participating countries and economies will secure access to the world’s most comprehensive and diverse portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines.
The COVAX AMC is the financing instrument put in place to support the participation of 92 lower-middle and low-income economies in the COVAX Facility. In tandem with the COVAX Facility, the AMC will allow the eligibility of all countries, including the less-wealthy ones, for the vaccine regardless of their ability to pay. There are also plans to distribute the vaccine outside of the Facility.
Which countries are participating?
190 economies have entered into agreements with COVAX. Committed countries include 27 European Union countries plus Norway and Iceland, along with countries such as Australia, China, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. The United States had initially refused to join the initiative but has since reversed its policy under the new administration.
Some of the AMC-eligible economies include 92 low and middle-income economies, some of which are Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic along with numerous others.
Please refer here for the complete list of countries.
The UAE to play an active role
The UAE has announced its intentions of providing active support for the Covax drive in providing affordable doses to the developing world. Through the production and distribution of the Hayat-Vax, the locally-produced version of the Sinopharm vaccine, the UAE plans on supporting the vaccination drives of low-income countries
Case in point, most of Africa relies on Covax for its supply but does lack the infrastructure to store Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, making Hayat-Vax more suitable for distribution there. Thus Hayat-Vax is a key component of the UAE’s wide-ranging strategy to support inoculation drives both at home and abroad.
COVAX has made bilateral agreements with several major companies producing COVID-19 vaccines, including Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. But most of the jabs allocated in the first half of this year were produced by AstraZeneca whose vaccine does not need the ultra-cold storage that other vaccines do.
As of May 2021, COVAX has delivered over 58 million COVID-19 vaccines to 122 countries and economies across six continents. The facility aims to supply at least 2 billion doses this year. Additionally, United Nations officials have appealled for another $2 billion by June for COVAX.