The COVAX facility is a global initiative that brings together governments, manufacturers and supply chains. It is a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of COVID vaccines to help ensure that all countries are able to secure the most effective vaccines at an affordable price. The COVAX initiative is being managed by Gavi, the vaccine alliance, who’s founding partners include the WHO, The World Bank, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF. For more information visit: https://www.gavi.org/covax-facility
The COVAX facility began distributing vaccines globally at the beginning of March-21 and it is anticipated that by the end of May-21, 237 million doses of vaccines will be allocated to 142 participating economies in COVAX. Within the first week of shipments, 15 individual countries received shipments, 14 of which were countries on the African continent. Shipments are predominately occurring from the Serum Institute of India as well as the AstraZeneca facility in South Korea. The J&J vaccine and the Novovax vaccine both have agreements with the COVAX facility to supply doses. There is an immediate focus on ensuring that health workers in lower-income counties start to receive vaccinations as many wealthy economies have already started their vaccination campaigns.
While this is encouraging progress, the volume of vaccines being distributed through COVAX is still relatively small. The first round of allocations covers between 2% and 3% of the populations of countries receiving vaccines through COVAX. The demand for vaccines is currently far greater than the supply. Furthermore, there are several barriers to scaling-up COVAX production capacity in order to meet this demand. These barriers include export restrictions and a shortage of raw materials including glass, plastic and stoppers. An urgent need to ramp-up the production of vaccines is required in order for the COVAX facility to be successful on a global scale. In addition to these barriers, the COVAX facility is currently underfunded. On 19th February-21, leaders from several G7 countries and the European Union committed US$ 4.3 bn in additional funding for the COVAX facility. Despite this, as of the 1st March-21, there was a funding gap of approximately USD$ 3 billion. The COVAX facility is funded to procure all of the vaccines contracted up to Q3 2021.