COVAX: ensuring fair allocation of a COVID-19 vaccine

Dr. Richard Hatchett
Novavax Phase 1

When a vaccine against COVID-19 becomes available, there will be intense and global demand. Therefore, an ambitious solution is needed to ensure fair allocation of vaccine supply and to make sure no one is left behind. If we are to end this pandemic, we need to stamp out the coronavirus everywhere, not just in the countries that can afford to procure large volumes of a vaccine.

To meet this challenge the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX), part of the ACT Accelerator, has been launched. This initiative, of which CEPI is a proud partner, aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, at all levels of development, that wish to participate.

COVAX is our best hope of ending the pandemic

COVAX is radical in its ambition but practical in its approach, harnessing the strengths of existing organisations: CEPI will continue to develop, at speed, one of the largest and most advanced COVID-19 vaccine portfolios in the world and will ensure, in collaboration with its industry partners, candidates are ready to be produced at scale. Simultaneously, GAVI will procure and finance (licensed) vaccine and help deploy it to the world, ensuring supply to low-income and middle-income countries and other countries through domestic government budgets.

Ultimately, governments that decide to go it alone risk concentrating their resources in a few potentially unsuccessful vaccine candidates, but by participating in COVAX they will be able to hedge that risk and increase their chances of success by contributing to a large and diverse portfolio of vaccines. At the same time, through COVAX, governments with limited or no ability to finance their own bilateral procurement can be assured access to life-saving vaccines that would otherwise have been beyond their reach.

Funding COVAX

$18.1 billion will be required to get 2 billion doses of vaccine in 2021. The funding is required immediately, so that we can ensure that accelerated development, manufacturing, procurement, stockpiling, and fair allocation of a vaccine can be achieved. These vital elements must be put in place now, otherwise we could face a delay of up to a year in getting a vaccine to the people who need it most.

Such a delay would be unacceptable, especially against a backdrop of rising coronavirus infections and deaths and an estimated US$375 billion impact on the global economy for every month this pandemic rages on.

Fair allocation of a vaccine

COVAX partners will work together to setup the framework and mechanism required to ensure fair allocation. A methodology is required to fairly allocate a COVID-19 vaccine and it will need to prioritise vaccine supply according to risk groups to reduce the spread of virus and its impact as quickly as possible. Priority populations for the first round of vaccinations will likely include healthcare workers, adults over the age of 65 years, and other high-risk adults with underlying health conditions.

Why we need to act now

Mitigate economic damage — for every month that this pandemic continues, $375 billion is lost from the global economy. Acting now to accelerate development, manufacture, and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine will save hundreds of thousands of lives and protect the livelihoods of millions more.

Accelerate availability of vaccine — if we follow the traditional course of vaccine development, we could face years of delay. Such a delay will cost lives and trillions of dollars in economic damage. COVAX will enable at-risk investments in production capacity across several candidates now — to ensure that, upon regulatory approval, doses can be made immediately available at scale.

Ensure globally fair allocation and access for low and middle income countries —nobody is safe from COVID-19 until everybody is safe. COVAX not only represents the best solution to end this pandemic, it is also the fairest way to allocate vaccine for all countries to ensure that access can be provided for every country.

With the launch of COVAX, we have a real chance to end this pandemic, but only if governments take a global approach to how they allocate funds for vaccine development, manufacturing, and distribution.