How Will Covax Deliver Covid-19 Vaccines to Poorer Countries? – Developing countries are falling dangerously behind in the global race to end the coronavirus pandemic through vaccinations. The Covax facility aims to get Covid-19 shots to at least 20% of the populations of the world’s poorest nations.
What is Covax?
Covax is the world’s main effort for getting Covid-19 vaccines to poor countries. It was started last year by the World Health Organization and two groups that have been working on getting vaccines to developing countries—Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations—when it became clear that many nations would struggle to access the shots. As rich countries have done, Covax made deals with vaccine manufacturers to buy doses before they had passed clinical trials and been approved by drug regulators. The money to buy the vaccines has been donated mostly by Western governments and charitable groups, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Who is participating in the WHO program?
Covax aims to provide free Covid-19 vaccines to at least 20% of the populations of the world’s 92 poorest countries by the end of 2021. Just over 50 other nations, including Canada and upper-middle income nations such as South Africa and Mexico, have also ordered vaccines through Covax, but have to pay for the doses themselves.
Which vaccines have been secured?
Covax has made deals with most of the big manufacturers, including Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc. But during the first half of 2021, the majority of planned deliveries from the facility are for the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC and Oxford University. For the whole year, the AstraZeneca vaccine is forecast to make up about one-third of Covax supplies, assuming that the shots by J&J and Novavax and other manufacturers get authorized as expected.
How many Covid vaccines will be donated?
Covax says it has negotiated deals for about 2.27 billion doses of vaccines this year, although many are for shots that have yet to be authorized or are still in clinical trials. All vaccines, except the J&J one, require two doses and some of them will go to the self-financing countries.
How will they be shared with poorer countries?
Covax says most countries will get a first shipment of doses in March, with some small deliveries expected in late February. Supplies during the first half of the year are extremely constrained. Covax expects 336 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer shot. That will be enough to cover just over 3% of the population of the participating countries. Covax’s purchase agreements with manufacturers are tied to a vaccine getting an emergency-use listing from the WHO, which in turn is used by regulators in many developing countries to approve the shots locally.
How is the U.S. supporting the Covax effort?
Under former President Donald Trump, the U.S. stood out among major Western governments for not contributing to Covax. President Biden will announce a $4 billion contribution to the facility during a meeting with other Group of Seven leaders on Friday, administration officials said. The U.S. will initial investment of $2 billion and then release an additional $2 billion throughout 2021 and 2022.
Can this program help put an end to the global health crisis?
Covax’s backers say the donated shots should help to end the acute phase of the pandemic by protecting a society’s most vulnerable members from getting seriously ill with Covid-19 and overwhelming hospitals. But the supplies secured so far will fall far short of helping benefiting countries to achieve herd immunity, so the virus is likely to continue circulating among the people who haven’t been vaccinated. That, some health experts warn, leaves opportunities for the virus to develop mutations that could allow it to evade the immune response triggered by the current crop of Covid-19 vaccines.