The Covax system, which supplies vaccines against COVID-19 to poor countries, aims to end the pandemic this year by guaranteeing not only the doses but also their distribution and injection.
Covax is a mechanism created, before vaccines were available, by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the Coalition for the Promotion of Innovations for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI).
Its goal is to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines.
In mid-January, it delivered its 1 billionth dose, both an achievement and a disappointment, because the figure is much lower than initially planned.
“In 2022, we can help stop COVID by adapting the way we work, ensuring doses are used quickly, injected safely, and responsive to country preferences and coverage goals,” said Seth Berkley, Head of the Vaccine Alliance, in a call for donations on January 19.
Covax has faced obstacles, such as the strategy of rich countries to hoard all possible doses, as well as the long-standing export ban from India, where its main source of vaccine supply was located.
Therefore, it had to depend on donations from rich countries.
But this also posed problems, because doses were too close to expiration date and deliveries were too small or too erratic for vaccination campaigns to be effective.
For this year, Covax needs $5.2 billion over the next three months to fund the 2022 doses.
$3.7 billion is needed to finance a stockpile of 600 million doses to ensure smooth supply.
Another $1 billion will go to help poor countries prepare and distribute vaccines to prevent waste.
And another $545 million, to cover expenses such as transportation, syringes and insurance.
“What we don’t have today are the resources to help countries adapt to the new levels of challenge that COVID-19 will create in 2022,” Berkley said, referring to the arrival of new vaccines tailored to variants as they emerge.
Covax, which estimates that it can save a million lives this year and halve the economic cost of the pandemic in some countries, says it has access to enough doses to vaccinate about 45% of the population in the 91 countries that They benefit from donations.
But the WHO’s goal is for 70% of the population of each country to be vaccinated by July 2022. An ambitious horizon, considering that 85% of the population of Africa has not even received a dose of antiviral serum.
At the current rate, 109 countries will miss the target, according to the WHO.
Seth Berkley expects the next billion doses to be delivered in four to five months, rather than the year it took the first ones.
Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, stresses that the goal is also to help countries in need organize mass vaccination campaigns.
“The last stage (between delivery and injection) will be the main challenge for 2022,” he said at a World Economic Forum (WEF) colloquium.
Up to 25 countries are expected to need help in this area.
In just over a year, a total of 9.8 billion doses have been injected. In poor countries, 82% of these were administered thanks to the Covax system.