Guru Gyan
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Guru Gyan

A Look Into WHO’s Global Vaccine Initiative, COVAX

A vaccine programme to save the world from COVID-19 — What is it all about and how it is going to help the world combat the pandemic?

COVAX is one of the three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and it was launched in April by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Commission and France to help combat the pandemic.

But what is an ACT accelerator? The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator is a new, ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines for low and middle-income countries. It is not a decision-making body or a new organisation but it works to expedite collaborative efforts among existing organisations to help end the pandemic.

COVAX is coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO. COVAX is a platform that will support the research, development and manufacturing of a wide range of COVID-19 vaccine candidates and negotiate their pricing.

Manufacturing and distributing the vaccine is not an easy task. Firstly, COVID-19 vaccines should be both safe and effective and we can’t be 100% sure that we can develop a vaccine like that. At present, there are over 170 candidate vaccines in development but there is a possibility that most of these efforts might fail.

In order to raise the chances of success of developing a vaccine that is safe for all, COVAX has formed the largest and most diverse portfolio of these vaccines in the world. Out of all these vaccines, nine candidate vaccines are already in development and another nine candidate vaccines are under evaluation.

When both self-financing countries and funded countries join COVAX, they will get access to this portfolio of vaccines. Self-financing countries will be guaranteed sufficient doses to safeguard a specific proportion of their population and this depends on how much they buy into it. Funded countries will get sufficient doses to vaccinate up to 20% of their population in the longer term, subject to funding availability.

183 countries are either eligible for subsidized access or have told that they want to participate, even though some countries are yet to sign formal agreements. The United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Japan, Australia and others have pledged funds to Gavi’s COVID-19 Vaccines Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC). Including the above funds, nearly $1.8 billion has been raised for the initiative.

Recently, China joined COVAX but the terms of its commitment are still not clear. On the other hand, the U.S is not part of the programme and it has publicly rejected the COVAX initiative. However, President Donald Trump has invested in six vaccine candidates via the $10 billion Operation Warp Speed.

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said that ACT Accelerator further needs a $35 billion, including an “immediate infusion” of $15 billion. Any delay would further widen already vast inequalities, he warned.

In conclusion, this initiative aims to bring the vaccine to every single person in this world and we can only wait and see when we will be able to develop a safe vaccine and when we do, we hope that it reaches even those who are in the hard-to-reach countries.

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