Geneva, Switzerland | THE INDEPENDENT | An additional USD 2 billion is required in 2021 to finance and secure up to a total of 1.8 billion donor-funded doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to the COVAX facility, an initiative led by UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Revealing that they are working to secure additional sourcing of vaccines in the form of dose-sharing from higher-income countries, the facility said in a statement that they have so far made supplies to100 countries, 42 days after they supplied their very first batches to Ghana in late February.
Through the facility, up to 38 million doses have so far been sent across six continents, supplying three vaccine brands from the manufacturers of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII). Of the ahundred benefiting countries, 61 are among the 92 low-income countries initially planned for by the facility.
However, while supplies were initially stable, the entity is currently suffering a set back with the serum institute which has been supplying majority of the 61 low-income countries cut back to first satisfy local demand in India.
Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance said in a statement that they face a challenge of ensuring constant supply as they deal with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history.
“This is no time for complacency”, he warned, “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. Our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers”.
With general shortages in global supplies under the COVAX facility, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore says governments and donors need 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.
She warned that countries should beware of emerging COVID-19 variants that are rapidly spreading as they are a threat to the response. In many countries, there’s still limited evidence as to whether the variants can evade available vaccines.
However, 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.
“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.”