You’ve probably seen the term COVAX in the news over the last few weeks. It made headlines when it was announced that Canada will be taking its part of the COVAX vaccine supply later this year.
To demystify its purpose and function here are 7 things you should know about COVAX:
COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), is one of the four key parts of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator – a groundbreaking global collaboration to speed up the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, and strengthen health systems around the world.
COVAX hosts the world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines. Wealthier self-financing countries invest in the COVAX initiative with half of their investment buying vaccines for their own country and half for lower-income countries. This initiative works as an insurance policy, ensuring safety for all citizens around the world; participating countries secure supply for their own citizens and people in the developing world get access to vaccines.
Countries pool their resources together and COVAX purchases vaccines and distributes them equitably around the world. COVAX aims to have 2 billion doses of vaccines available for distribution by the end of 2021. This would ensure the protection of frontline healthcare workers and vulnerable populations with the ultimate goal being to vaccinate up to 20% of all participating countries’ populations.
We’re only going to be safe here in Canada when everyone around the world is vaccinated. By investing in COVAX, wealthy countries protect their citizens by obtaining more vaccines and reducing the chances of resurgence and development of further virus variants.
Having so many countries involved (more than 180) means COVAX can negotiate highly competitive prices from manufacturers that countries may not be able to reach on their own. In other words, more vaccines are purchased at less cost allowing us to protect more citizens.
A new study commissioned by the ICC Research Foundation found the global economy stands to lose as much as $9.2 trillion USD if governments fail to ensure developing economies have access to COVID-19 vaccines. As much as half of this loss would fall on advanced economies.
A recent Eurasia report also found that equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution across the globe would generate $153 billion USD in economic benefits to ten of the world’s largest donor countries, including Canada, for 2020-2021.
Self-financing is the stream for wealthy countries, like Canada, to contribute funds to the COVAX initiative to procure vaccine doses for their own populations. The second stream of funding is called the Gavi COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC). The AMC Engagement Group is the financing instrument for COVAX. With contributions from wealthy countries and private philanthropists, its primary focus is to ensure lower-middle income countries have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The Canadian government invested $440 million CAD into COVAX back in September. Through this investment, Canada is slated to draw 1.9 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX’s vaccine supply in its first allotment later this year. Most of the first vaccine doses will be sent to low and middle income countries, though other wealthy nations including New Zealand and Singapore will also be taking their doses in the first allotment.
Canada is also involved in an administrative role with the COVAX initiative. Minister for International Development, Karina Gould, is the co-chair of the AMC Engagement group.
The ACT Accelerator needs an estimated $33.2 billion USD to reach its goal of supporting the development and equitable distribution of the tests, treatments and vaccines the world needs. Current funding commitments total $6 billion. Even with an additional $4 billion in anticipated donor funding, the ACT-Accelerator is left with a funding gap of $23.2 billion to reach this goal. This funding will support all the pieces of the ACT Accelerator (COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, as well as health systems strengthening), which are all necessary to get the vaccines where they need to go.