Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC
Picture: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC

The Covax alliance, which aims to secure Covid-19 vaccines for the world’s most vulnerable people, says it has secured two-billion doses for 190 nations, which include 92 low- and middle-income countries.

The agreements are contingent on the vaccines, most of which are still in their testing phases, being approved by regulators as safe and effective.

Covax is a global partnership that was formed to ensure equitable access to vaccines by pooling procurement from multiple pharmaceutical companies to ensure good prices.

It has raised more than $2bn for self-financing countries and another $2bn for poorer ones, it announced on Friday.

“Equitable access is what will enable us to win and to defeat the pandemic,” said Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) in a media conference on Friday afternoon. It is hoped the first deliveries will take place in the first quarter of 2021, with the balance arriving by the end of the first half of the year.

The new deals announced include the signing of an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca for 170-million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford candidate vaccine, and a memorandum of understanding with Johnson & Johnson for 500-million doses of its vaccine.

Only the Pfizer vaccine has been approved by regulators so far for rollout in the US and UK. Johnson & Johnson’s is only expected to complete its vaccine trial, taking place partly in SA, at the end of January.

The vaccines Covax has lined up are expected to start becoming available from February.

Covax has warned, however, that the rollout of vaccines to partner countries will depend on the availability of the shots, regulatory approval of vaccines and each country’s readiness to deliver them to their people.

Countries will initially be expected to give vaccines that become available to the vulnerable, the elderly and health workers, although Covax ultimately plans to buy enough vaccines for 20% of each country’s populations.

Executive director of Unicef Henrietta Fore said that as the single largest procurer of vaccines for children in the world, the agency was going to help Covax transport and administer the shots.

Fore said Unicef had bought 500-million syringes and purchased five-million safety boxes so that the used syringes and needles could be disposed of correctly.

SA missed its R327m payment to the Covax facility this week, Bloomberg reported. The payment represents 15% of what will ultimately have to be paid.

The payment to the Covax programme will be made in coming days, however, by the Solidarity Fund, a philanthropic organisation backed by some of SA’s richest people and biggest companies.

The Solidarity Fund will make the payment as soon as it gets the go-ahead from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (Gavi), which is running Covax, CEO Tandi Nzimande said by phone on Thursday to Bloomberg.

With Reuters and Bloomberg

childk@businesslive.co.za

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