12 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Delivered As Part Of COVAX Scheme

The COVAX Vaccines Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC), launched on the 4th of June by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and jointly led by Gavi, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), has now delivered over 12 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 19 different countries. COVAX aims to overcome inequalities in vaccine distribution by providing lower-income countries with access to high-quality COVID-19 vaccines. The scheme is funded by contributions from wealthy participating countries who pay into the scheme, providing them with future access to doses and forming a pool of funds that can be redistributed to low- and middle-income countries. To date, COVAX has already raised $6 billion for vaccine distribution; reporting by the BBC indicates, however, that at least a further $2 billion will need to be raised for 2021 vaccination targets to be met. COVAX is set to be the world’s largest vaccine rollout program, with plans to provide 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses globally in 2021.

Vaccine deliveries over the last ten days have seen 19 countries, including Moldova, Uganda, Mali and Malawi receiving doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Countries including Nigeria, Rwanda and Kenya are already carrying out vaccination campaigns of health and front-line workers; deliveries of vaccinations to a further ten countries are planned this weekend. A total of 142 countries have been allocated a part of the 237 million doses that form the initial launch of COVAX, which will be supplied over the coming months through May. February also saw the announcement of an additional 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that will be allocated as part of COVAX, which are also planned to be delivered during March.

Despite the aims of COVAX to redistribute wealth in order to allow for vaccinations to be rolled out fairly across the globe, some higher-income nations have decided not to waive their access to doses through the scheme in this initial phase. Canada, in particular, has come under fire for its decision to receive COVAX doses. This comes as part of an attempt by the Canadian government to pick up the pace on vaccinations, as the country lags behind similar wealthy countries, with only 2.38 per cent of the population vaccinated to date, as reported by the Guardian.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, has defended the decision to access doses but has been widely criticized. Jillian Kohler, a professor at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, said in a statement to the Guardian: “Taking vaccine supply from a multilateral institution that was designed particularly to help the world’s poor is shocking and an embarrassment.”

In the COVAX system, half of Canada’s $440 million contribution will be used for its own doses, with the other half helping to fund doses for lower- and middle-income countries. Despite the fact that their contribution will still help secure doses for developing nations, their decision to receive doses will impact the delivery of vaccines as part of COVAX. In a statement to the BBC Gavi chief executive officer, Seth Berkley, said, “Does it help when countries that have a lot of bilateral deals don’t take doses? Of course it helps because that means there are more doses available for others.”

Clara Baltay