Vaccine alliance secures $2bn to fund Covid shots for poor nations

November 22, 2020
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A facility set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the GAVI vaccine group has exceeded an interim target of raising more than $2 billion to buy and distribute Covid-19 shots for poorer countries, but said it still needs more.

The GAVI alliance said on Friday that the funds for an advance market commitment (AMC) will allow the COVAX facility to buy an initial one billion vaccine doses for 92 eligible countries which would not otherwise be able to afford them.

“We’ve seen sovereign and private donors from across the world dig deep and meet this target and help ensure that every country will get access to Covid vaccines, not just the wealthy few,” GAVI chief Seth Berkley told reporters, adding that there was an “urgent need” to also finance treatments and diagnostics.

The European Commission, France, Spain, South Korea, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others had in recent weeks pledged another $360 million to the AMC, the alliance said, bringing total funding over the $2 billion target for this year.

Another $5 billion will be needed in 2021 to procure Covid-19 vaccine doses as they come through development and are approved by regulators, GAVI said in a statement.

Berkley also welcomed the US presidential election outcome, adding he expected to have talks with president-elect Joe Biden’s team about the COVAX plan.

“It’s positive that the incoming administration has already established a Covid-19 task force filled with many scientists we know are believers in science and moving this forward,” he said.

“The US is already one of GAVI’s biggest supporters, they care enormously about vaccines for the developing world. And I suspect that we will have continuing conversations about how we can collaborate with them,” he added.

US drugmaker Pfizer and its partner BioNTech , who this week said their experimental Covid-19 vaccine was 90pc effective in initial trials, had expressed an interest in supplying doses to the COVAX facility, Berkley said.

“We continue to advance negotiations with a number of manufacturers in addition to those we’ve already announced who share our vision of fair and equitable distribution of vaccines,” he added. Berkley said $5.3 billion was also still needed for diagnostics and $6.1 billion for therapeutics by the end of 2021.Hailed this week as a pandemic game-changer, the new Covid-19 vaccine offered countries that had pre-ordered doses a potential escape from a cycle of lockdowns and new waves of sickness and death.

But while richer nations plan their vaccination programmes through the end of 2021, experts warn that poorer and developing countries face hurdles that could deny billions the first proven protection against the coronavirus.The results of phase 3 clinical trials showed their mRNA vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 symptoms and did not produce adverse side effects among thousands of volunteers.

At the cost of $40 per treatment, which consists of two separate shots, richer nations have rushed to order tens of millions of doses. But it is less clear what poorer nations can expect.

“If we only have the Pfizer vaccine and everyone needs two doses, clearly that’s a difficult ethical dilemma,” Trudie Lang, director of The Global Health Network at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine, said.

Anticipating the outsize demand for any approved vaccine, the World Health Organisation formed the COVAX facility in April to ensure equitable distribution.

COVAX brought together governments, scientists, civil society and the private sector — though Pfizer is not currently part of the facility.

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