“We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX. China will also strengthen vaccine cooperation with relevant countries through the COVAX network,” said China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, in a statement released today [October 9].
She said the Asian economy decided to join COVAX despite it being "a world leader" in terms of having several vaccines already in advanced stages of R&D and with ample production capacity.
The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, run by Gavi, the vaccines alliance, the World Health organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure eventual vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live. The idea is that by pooling resources together, economies signed up to the facility can insure themselves against failed vaccine candidates as well as secure access to a successful one.
“This is very positive news, which gives even more momentum to our efforts to ensure global, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines,” said a spokesperson for Gavi in relation to China joining.
The COVAX Facility now has over 170 economies involved. Russia has not joined the initiative though, and the US said previously it would not be signing up to the international effort due to the involvement of the WHO in the program.
“Vaccine deals are underway, and we are fast approaching our initial fundraising target for lower-income countries. What seemed like an impossible challenge just a few months ago - ensuring every country, rich or poor, gets equitable, rapid access to COVID-19 vaccines - is now becoming a reality,” said the Gavi representative.
China will be procuring vaccines through the facility for a proportion of its own population, just as with other countries, he added.
“The goal of COVAX is to procure two billion doses by end of 2021. To be able to do that, we need upfront payments from the self-financing group of economies - 79 higher-income economies have officially joined the facility - with China being the latest joiner - which means we now have the financial backing to make further deals for doses of promising candidates," the spokesperson told BioPharma-Reporter.
He said COVAX is now in the process of securing those upfront payments.
Japanese funding pledge
The project received a further boost yesterday with the Japanese government pledging US$130m in funding to the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), bringing the total raised to roughly US$1.8bn.
The AMC is aiming to secure doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income countries and economies at the same time as wealthier nations
“We also need US$2bn by end of the end of 2020, of which US$1.8bn has now been raised to date, to reserve and accelerate doses for 92 AMC-eligible economies, and another US$5bn in 2021 to procure doses for these economies as they come through the portfolio.
“The funds for AMC are contributed from Official Development Assistance (ODA) of Gavi donor countries,” explained the Gavi spokesperson.