64 higher income economies have joined the COVAX Facility, a global initiative that brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure eventual COVID-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live. These 64 economies include commitments from 35 economies as well as a joint effort between the European Commission, 27 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland as part of Team Europe.
By pooling financial and scientific resources, these participating economies will be able to insure themselves against the failure of any individual vaccine candidate and secure successful vaccines in a cost-effective, targeted way.
The 64 members of the Facility will be joined by 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for support for the procurement of vaccines through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a financing instrument aimed at supporting the procurement of vaccines for these countries. This means that 156 economies, representing roughly 64% of the global population in total, are now either committed to or eligible for the COVAX Facility, with more to follow.
With the Commitment Agreements secured, the COVAX Facility will now start signing formal agreements with vaccine manufacturers and developers, which are partners in the COVAX effort, to secure the doses needed to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021. This is in addition to an ongoing effort to raise funding for both R&D and for the procurement of vaccines for lower-income countries via the Gavi COVAX AMC.
“COVAX is now in business: governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is coordinating the COVAX Facility. “With the commitments we’re announcing today for the COVAX Facility, as well as the historic partnership we are forging with industry, we now stand a far better chance of ending the acute phase of this pandemic once safe, effective vaccines become available.”
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The COVAX Facility is part of COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, Civil Society Organisations and others.
The allocation of vaccines, once licensed and approved, will be guided by an Allocation Framework released today by WHO following the principle of fair and equitable access, ensuring no participating economy will be left behind. Policies determining the prioritisation of vaccine rollout within economies will be guided by recommendations from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), which has recently released a Values Framework laying the groundwork for subsequent guidance on target populations and policies on vaccine use.
“COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis that demands an unprecedented global response,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery. Working together through the COVAX Facility is not charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests to control the pandemic and accelerate the global economic recovery.”
The commitment of fully self-financing economies – which began on September 15 with a public commitment by Japan – will now unlock vital funding and the security of demand needed to scale up manufacturing and secure the doses needed for the Facility. CEPI is leading COVAX vaccine research and development work, which aims to develop at least three safe and effective vaccines which can be made available to economies participating in the COVAX Facility. Nine candidate vaccines are currently being supported by CEPI; eight of which are currently in clinical trials.
“This is a landmark moment in the history of public health with the international community coming together to tackle this pandemic. The global spread of COVID-19 means that it is only through equitable and simultaneous access to new lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines that we can hope to end this pandemic”, said Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. “Countries coming together in this way shows a unity of purpose and resolve to end the acute phase of this pandemic, and we must now work closely with vaccine manufacturers – who play an integral part in the global response – to put in place the agreements needed to fulfil COVAX’s core aim: to have two billion vaccine doses available by the end of 2021. Today, we have taken a great leap towards that goal, for the benefit of all.”
The success of COVAX hinges not only on economies signing up to the COVAX Facility and commitments from vaccine manufacturers, but also filling key funding gaps for both COVAX research and development (R&D) work and the Gavi COVAX AMC to support participation of lower income economies in the COVAX Facility.
Governments, vaccine manufacturers (in addition to their own R&D), organisations and individuals have committed US$ 1.4 billion towards vaccine R&D so far, but a further US$ 700-800 million is urgently needed to continue to move the portfolio forward in addition to US$ 300 million to fund WHO’s SOLIDARITY trial.
The Gavi COVAX AMC has raised around US$ 700 million from sovereign donors as well as philanthropy and the private sector, against an initial target of US$ 2 billion in seed funding needed by the end of 2020. Funding the Gavi COVAX AMC will be critical to ensuring ability to pay is not a barrier to accessing COVID-19 vaccines, a situation which would leave the majority of the world unprotected, with the pandemic and its impact continuing unabated.
The Commitment Agreements also commit higher income governments to provide an upfront payment to reserve doses by 9 October 2020. These funds will be used to accelerate the scale-up of vaccine manufacturing to secure two billion doses of vaccine, enough to vaccinate one billion people assuming the vaccine requires a two-dose regimen. Further details on these upfront payments are available in Gavi’s COVAX Facility Explainer.
As well as procuring doses for participating economies, the COVAX Facility will also maintain a buffer of doses for emergency and humanitarian use.