COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Missed Targets

In 2020, the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was launched with the aim to grant all countries the opportunity for quick, fair and equitable access to coronavirus vaccines. However, the targets of the aforementioned initiative are being "missed" due to a lack of capital and the selfishness of some developed countries.

The initial aim of COVAX is to have two billion doses available by the end of 2021 to support the anti-pandemic efforts in countries. Yet, this ambitious plan is at risk of bankruptcy as statistics show that only 68 million vaccine doses from the COVAX scheme have been delivered thus far, meeting just 3.4 per cent of the plan. Meanwhile, by the end of May 2021, the world has recorded the distribution of 1.5 billion doses, but only about 0.3 per cent of them reached low-income countries.

World health experts point out that the aforementioned disappointing results are not attributed to the insufficient efforts of the people in charge of the COVAX program at the World Health Organization (WHO), but mainly due to a lack of funding and vaccine supplies, and the unwillingness of rich countries in sharing vaccines with poor ones.

COVAX was initially intended to be a non-profit financial attraction structure. Accordingly, rich countries make financial contributions to simultaneously research many different vaccines to find some effective vaccines and then provide them for free to 92 low-income countries who cannot afford to buy COVID-19 vaccines. To ensure its efficiency, this mechanism requires that a sufficient number of rich countries make investment and commit to receiving vaccines via COVAX. However, in fact, this initiative has not obtained the necessary funding to serve research and vaccine procurement in the initial stage. Many rich countries have even signed individual contracts to buy vaccines with manufacturers such as Pfizer and Moderna, thus delaying the implementation of large-scale vaccine production contracts in 2021 under the COVAX scheme.

A major problem hindering COVAX's vaccine supply efforts is the scarce supply of vaccines, which is partly attributed to the serious pandemic situation in India. The main vaccine supplier for COVAX is the Serum Institute of India, which is producing the AstraZeneca vaccine. However, with the strong outbreak of the disease in the South Asian country, the planned vaccine supply for COVAX had to be diverted to serve India's domestic demand.

The WHO and the global vaccine alliance Gavi -- representatives of organizations initiating the COVAX mechanism -- recently issued a statement that an additional U.S.$2 billion is needed to lift coverage of immunization programs to nearly 30 per cent. To secure doses for delivery through 2021, and into early 2022, COVAX needs the aforementioned sum by June 2 to lock in supplies. [By June 2 pledges for U.S.$2.4 billion had been received -- TML Ed. Note.] According to its original objectives, COVAX is expected to deliver two billion doses of vaccine worldwide in 2021, and 1.8 billion doses by early 2022. The "financial bottlenecks" are hindering COVAX's goals and efforts in vaccine delivery. Managers of the COVAX initiative also warned that if the current vaccine shortage is not urgently addressed, the "consequences could be catastrophic."

The facts mentioned above show that COVAX's plans to ensure "vaccine for everyone" and "leave no country behind" are missing their targets. This is not only a problem of COVAX founders and managers, but also a big problem globally, because variants of the coronavirus and new waves of the pandemic can penetrate and resurge in developed countries at any time. The only way for humanity to beat the current pandemic is for the governments and people of countries, especially developed ones, to share the difficulties, distribute vaccines appropriately, and join hands in the fight against COVID-19.

(May 29, 2021)

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 6 - June 6, 2021

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