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 poorer nations. 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. Covax has also called on rich countries, which have bought enough vaccines to cover their populations multiple times over this year, to donate any extra doses. So far, the U.K. and Canada have said they would share surplus doses, but without giving details of when they would do so. Norway has said it would start sharing vaccines with developing countries at the same time as it starts immunizing its own people, while France has called on European countries to start giving about 5% of their vaccines to African nations now.