(HealthNewsDigest.com) – More than one hundred economies have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on 24 February 2021.
COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers, AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII). Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
Despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimizing their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.
“In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached one hundred countries,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”
“COVAX has given the world the best way to ensure the fastest, most equitable rollout of safe and effective vaccines to all at-risk people in every country on the planet,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “If we are going to realize this great opportunity, countries, producers and the international system must come together to prioritize vaccine supply through COVAX. Our collective future, literally, depends on it.”
“This is a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19. Faced with the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants, global access to vaccines is fundamentally important to reduce the prevalence of the disease, slow down viral mutation, and hasten the end of the pandemic,” said Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). “The extraordinary scientific achievements of the last year must now be matched by an unprecedented effort to protect the most vulnerable, so the global community must remain firmly focused on reducing the equity gap in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.”
“In just a month and a half, the ambition of granting countries access to COVID vaccines is becoming a reality, thanks to the outstanding work of our partners in the COVAX Facility,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “However, this is no time to celebrate; it is time to accelerate. With variants emerging all over the world, we need to speed up global rollout. To do this, we need governments, along with other partners, to take necessary steps to increase supply, including by simplifying barriers to intellectual property rights, eliminating direct and indirect measures that restrict exports of COVID-19 vaccines, and donating excess vaccine doses as quickly as possible.”
According to its latest supply forecast, COVAX expects to deliver at least 2 billion doses of vaccines in 2021. In order to reach this goal, the COVAX Facility will continue to diversify its portfolio further, and will announce new agreements with vaccine manufacturers in due course.
Furthermore, in March it was announced that the United States government will host the launch event for the 2021 Gavi COVAX AMC Invest Opportunity to catalyze further commitment and support for accelerated access to vaccines for AMC-supported economies. An additional US$ 2 billion is required in 2021 to finance and secure up to a total of 1.8 billion donor-funded doses of vaccines. COVAX is also working to secure additional sourcing of vaccines in the form of dose-sharing from higher income countries.
Quotes from donors and partners
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “As we continue our common race to speed up safe and effective vaccination everywhere, I want to commend COVAX for having delivered first vaccines to 100 countries in every corner of the world, including some of the most vulnerable warn torn countries like Afghanistan and Yemen. This is a real milestone. Team Europe has strongly invested in COVAX and I urge all partners to support COVAX to make sure no one is left behind”.
Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Australia said: “Australia welcomes the progress made by COVAX in COVID-19 vaccine distribution across the world. One hundred countries now have access to life-saving COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX. We are proud to work with global partners to achieve equitable global access to safe and effective vaccines.”
Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, Canada and co-chair, COVAX AMC Engagement Group said: “Despite the many challenges it faced, the COVAX Facility has continued to deliver. In just a matter of weeks, it’s been supplying vaccines to 100 countries. This is a milestone we can all be proud of. Now, more than ever, we must continue to work together and support multilateral mechanisms like the COVAX Facility and the ACT-Accelerator.”
Jean-Yves le Drian, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, France said: “One hundred countries have now received safe, WHO-approved vaccines against COVID-19 through the COVAX Facility. France welcomes this crucial step forward, which demonstrates that multilateralism in global health, as well as the spirit of solidarity and responsibility on which it is based, constitutes the most effective response to this pandemic. But the fight against the virus is far from over: we must continue to support COVAX and accelerate equitable access to vaccines in fragile countries, in particular through sharing of vaccine doses. This is what France wants to do, together with its EU and G7 partners.”
Dr Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany said: “We either beat the pandemic worldwide or we will not beat it at all. The only way out of the crisis is a global immunization campaign. In order to now be able to vaccinate people quickly, we are using the tried and tested structures of the global vaccine alliance Gavi. Thanks to the vaccination platform COVAX, the structures are in place to provide vaccines for at least 20 per cent of people in developing countries and emerging economies over the course of this year.”
Heiko Maas, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Germany said: “The fact that St.Lucia yesterday became the 100th country to be supplied with vaccines via the COVAX platform supported by Germany and the EU, is a milestone on the way out of the pandemic. This progress gives us hope, for we too will only be safe when everyone around the world is safe. Access to vaccines, medicines and tests must not become a geopolitical pawn. Rather, they must be available to all countries in a fair and transparent manner. That’s why we’re committed to COVAX, to a multilateral approach.”
Colm Brophy TD, Minister of State for Overseas Development and the Diaspora, Ireland said: “Through our funding to COVAX, Ireland is supporting developing countries, who most need vaccines and can least afford them, secure their share of global supply.”
Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development, Norway, and Co-chair of the ACT-Accelerator Facilitation Council said: “In less than a year, the world has come together to develop and secure equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines. That is a huge victory. But the risk of vaccine nationalism is still looming large. Countries and manufactures must prioritize global solutions. It is also crucial that all manufacturers continue to make their vaccines available and affordable to COVAX, so that the global rollout can continue. Countries that have more vaccines than they need should share vaccines through COVAX. I also expect all relevant stakeholders to take action to ensure that the world can produce enough vaccines, at a price that even the poorest countries can afford.”
H.E. Dr Tawfig AlRabiah, Minister of Health in Saudi Arabia said: “‘People’s health first’ has been the guiding principle, driving all efforts in the fight against the pandemic – both nationally and globally – to ensure that “No one is left behind”. We in the kingdom are proud contributors to GAVI and the COVAX facility, which has now shipped over 37 million vaccines. This show of solidarity is the cure to fighting COVID-19, and our collective resilience will enable us to overcome any future pandemic we may face.”
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister Wendy Morton, United Kingdom said: “From Nigeria to Nepal, COVAX has now delivered life-saving vaccine doses to 100 countries and territories which is a huge achievement and another step towards making us all safe. The UK has played a leading role in achieving equitable access to vaccines by providing £548 million for COVAX early on, which will help to deliver more than one billion doses around the world, as well as lobbying international partners to increase their funding.”
United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said: “The United States welcomes the news that COVAX has delivered safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to 100 countries. The United States signaled our strong support for COVAX through an initial $2 billion contribution to Gavi. Through unprecedented partnerships among donors, manufacturers, and participating countries, COVAX has achieved extraordinary milestones in equitably distributing doses to the global community in record time.”
Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank said: “As part of Team Europe the European Investment Bank is pleased to provide EUR 400 million for COVAX, representing the EIB’s largest ever support for global public health. COVAX has already provided vaccines to vulnerable groups and front line workers and brought hope to millions more. COVAX demonstrates the benefit of global cooperation to tackle the shared challenge of COVID. Congratulations to the COVAX team and global partners in 100 countries around the world. Together we are ensuring equitable access to vaccines and together we are directing our efforts towards a global recovery.”
Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca CEO, said: “Today marks a significant milestone in the global fight against the pandemic as 100 countries have received vaccine through COVAX. I am proud that the supply of our vaccine accounts for the vast majority of doses being delivered through COVAX in the first half of this year. Over 37 million doses of our vaccine have been delivered to date which are protecting the most vulnerable populations around the world. Together with our COVAX partners, we continue to work 24/7 to deliver on our unwavering commitment to broad, equitable and affordable access.”
Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said: “Congratulations to everyone who has worked tirelessly to reach this impressive milestone. At Pfizer we are driven every day by the belief that science will win. Through collaboration and commitment, COVAX has brought forth a global solution that helps to bring breakthrough science to everyone, everywhere. We are proud to work together with the facility and all of its partners and remain firmly committed to working toward the shared vision of equitable access for all to end this pandemic.”
Sai D. Prasad, President, Developing Countries Vaccines Manufacturing Network (DCVMN) said: “COVAX has made history by ensuring equitable access for COVID-19 vaccines to all countries irrespective of their economic status. The 100th delivery marks a great milestone for COVAX, leading to enhanced deliveries during 2021. We commend the efforts by all partners in COVAX for this achievement. Developed and developing country manufacturers have played a crucial role in product development and large scale manufacturing. In order to meet the requirements of all countries, more partnerships between innovators and manufacturers are required. COVAX’s leadership in COVID-19 vaccines will ensure that we leave no one behind.”
Thomas Cueni, Director General, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) & founding partner of ACT-A said: “The timeline is truly impressive. It’s an innovation success story with the first WHO vaccine approval on 31 December 2020, less than a year after the virus was first shared. It’s a manufacturing success story with the scaling up from zero to one billion doses being produced by April 2021. It is a logistics and country preparedness success story, with 100 countries receiving the vaccines and last but by no means least, it’s a collaboration and solidarity success story, thanks to the commitment from donors and the tireless efforts of the partners of COVAX including the developing and the developed world manufacturers. COVAX’s partnerships together with political leadership to equitably share surplus vaccines are the best guarantees we have that people who need the vaccine will get it whenever they live, fast enough to outpace the virus’ mutations.”