Covax: How will Covid vaccines be shared around the world?on February 19, 2021 at 1:28 pm

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A scheme to distribute Covid-19 vaccines globally is under way. Here’s what you need to know.

A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020.

image copyrightReuters

Vaccines are seen as the best way of enabling the world to return to some sense of normality.

A scheme called Covax aims to ensure they are shared fairly among all nations, rich and poor.

The UK is among those offering money and unused doses, but some say it is not enough.

The coronavirus pandemic has destroyed livelihoods and claimed the lives of more than two million people worldwide.

So far, richer countries have been able to buy far more Covid jabs than poorer ones.

Covax hopes to deliver more than two billion doses to people in 190 countries in less than a year.

In particular, it wants to ensure 92 poorer countries will receive access to vaccines at the same time as 98 wealthier countries.

The scheme is led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and also involves the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi).

Covax has raised $6bn (£4.3bn), but the scheme says it needs at least another $2bn (£1.4bn) to meet its target for 2021.

The UK government has provided $734m (£548m) and the US pledged $4bn (£2.93bn) in December.

One of President Biden’s first acts in office was to sign up the US to Covax.

Map showing the number of vaccine doses administered per 100 people

The UK, which has ordered 400 million vaccine doses and will have many left over, has said it will donate most of its surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has said richer countries should send up to 5% of their current vaccine supplies to poorer nations.

The lower income countries most likely to receive the first vaccines include Afghanistan, Haiti, DR Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Although most of the first doses available will be delivered to low- and middle-income countries, some will be sent to high-income countries such as Canada, which has defended its decision to draw on Covax’s early supply.

The WHO has approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, giving it the green light for it to be rolled out globally through Covax.

Gavi says it has an agreement for 340 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and about 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It hopes to begin rolling them out in March.

Stages of coronavirus vaccine distribution: Stage 1: 3% of population - health and social care workers. Stage 2: 20% of population - over 65s and high risk. Stage 3: 20%+ - further priority groups

Health care workers are expected to be first in line to receive them.

Some people say Covax has not moved quickly enough. One WHO board member, Austria’s Dr Clemens Martin Auer, said it had been slow to secure vaccine deals and deliver doses to countries.

Vaccines produced in the UK, US, Europe, Russia and China are already being widely used, having been bought up and approved in countries around the world.

But doses are not shared equally between countries.

“Rich nations representing just 14% of the world’s population had bought up more than half (53%) of all the most promising vaccines,” a campaign group called The People’s Vaccine Alliance said in December.

High-income countries currently hold a confirmed 4.2 billion doses, while low-middle income nations hold 670 million, according to research by the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

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Even if Covax’s target is met, it would still fall short of the level of immunity that experts say is needed to end the pandemic.

The WHO has suggested that stopping Covid-19 will require at least 70% of the global population to have immunity.

At a rate of two billion doses per year, it could take years to vaccinate 70% of the world’s estimated 7.8 billion people.

However, two billion doses would give some protection to those who are first in line, such as health workers, the elderly and the vulnerable.

Chart showing the number of vaccine doses administered per 100 people in the 10 countries with most vaccinations
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