A coalition of 156 countries reached a “historic” agreement to enable the rapid and equitable global distribution of any new coronavirus vaccine to 3% of the population of participating countries, in order to protect vulnerable health systems, health workers front-line and those in social services.
The Covid-19 vaccine allocation plan – co-led by the World Health Organization and known as Covax – has been put in place to ensure that the research, purchase and distribution of any new vaccine is shared equally between the richest countries in the world and those in the developing world.
Sixty-four higher-income economies have already joined Covax, which includes pledges from 35 economies as well as the European Commission, which will purchase doses on behalf of the 27 EU member states as well as Norway and the United States. Iceland, and 38 others are expected to join in the next few days.
Ultimately, the program aims to deliver 2 billion doses of safe and effective vaccines to the world by the end of 2021.
Governments, vaccine makers, organizations and individuals have so far committed $ 1.4 billion (£ 1.1 billion) for vaccine research and development.
Recognizing that the first useful vaccines to emerge may be scarce, approved vaccines will initially be made available to 3% of the closely targeted population of participating countries, reaching over time 20% of the most vulnerable population in each country.
Unveiling the deal at a briefing in Geneva on Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the United Nations health body, said Covax represented “the largest and most diverse Covid vaccine portfolio in the world. world ”in which priority would be given to those most at risk.
“This is a mechanism that enables global coordination of deployment for the greatest possible impact and will help bring the pandemic under control and ensure that the vaccine race is a collaboration, not a competition,” he said. declared.
He added that the program would guarantee vaccines for “certain people in all countries and not all people in certain countries.”
According to a document detailing the arrangement, under the program “all countries should gradually receive tranches [of vaccine] to cover each subset of their [initial] target groups… until they can cover 3% of the population ”.
The document continues: “At this point in the pandemic, a reasonable scenario would be that, while the supply of Covid-19 vaccines remains very scarce, countries should focus on reducing mortality and protecting them first. of the health system.
“This … would allow, for example, the vaccination of frontline workers in health and social protection facilities in most countries … Additional tranches will gradually follow as the supply becomes available.”
While decisions on the distribution of vaccines initially provided under the program will remain at the discretion of each country, he said he encouraged “countries to take these recommendations into account and be transparent about their processes. decision-making process and the end-use of the vaccine ”.
Set up to counter the growing threat of so-called “vaccine nationalism” amid the ongoing pandemic, Covax is led by the WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Preparedness and Innovation in epidemic (Cepi) to ensure “equitable access and allocation of Covid-19 health products”, in particular vaccines.
Gavi praised the fact that Covax was “now in business”.
“Governments on all continents have chosen to work together, not only to obtain vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available everywhere for the most vulnerable,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO by Gavi.
“With the commitments we are announcing today for the installation of Covax, as well as the historic partnership we are forging with industry, we now have a much better chance of ending the acute phase of this pandemic once safe and effective vaccines will be available.
Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of Cepi, said: “This is a defining moment in public health history as the international community comes together to fight this pandemic.
“The global spread of Covid-19 means that it is only through equitable and simultaneous access to vital new Covid-19 vaccines that we can hope to end this pandemic.
“Countries coming together in this way show unity of purpose and determination to end the acute phase of this pandemic, and we now need to work closely with the vaccine manufacturers – who play a critical role in bringing it to a close. global response – to put the necessary agreements in place. to achieve Covax’s main objective: to have 2 billion doses of vaccine by the end of 2021. Today, we have taken a big step towards this objective, for the benefit of all. “