A virtual pledging summit hosted by Japan on Wednesday has raised a total of $2.6 billion for the COVAX vaccine sharing facility, with the aim of boosting the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
The COVAX Advance Market Commitment Summit, called “One World Protected”, was set up by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — one of the agencies behind COVAX — to encourage the wealthiest countries to step up financial commitments to the scheme, as well as share their surplus vaccine doses.
COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organization, and is working with UNICEF on distribution. Its aim is to ensure the world’s 92 low- and middle-income countries have access to vaccines to curb the pandemic, and plans to deliver 2 billion doses of the vaccine by the end of 2021.
The $2.6 billion raised at the summit came from governments, private sector companies, and philanthropic foundations. Some 54 million vaccine doses were also pledged to COVAX by national governments.
According to Gavi, the funds raised so far will enable the organization to secure 1.8 billion doses for the low- and middle-income countries participating in COVAX.
This is great progress but more is needed. Global Citizen is calling on G7 nations to share 1 billion vaccine doses by September, and another billion by the end of the year. The UK and Canada, both countries with large quantities of surplus vaccine doses, are yet to share doses.
Global Citizens can take action by calling on world leaders, especially those in the G7 ahead of the G7 summit taking place in the UK on June 11, to step up do more to end the pandemic for all.
“Bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is the most pressing challenge of our time — and nobody wins the race until everyone wins,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, the chief executive of Gavi, following the summit.
“Today, as we looked back on one year of COVAX, we saw that global leaders clearly recognize the need for equitable access and support the principle that ability to pay should not determine whether someone is protected from this virus.”
Here are some of the key pledges made on the day:
1. Japan led the way by donating $800 million
The largest sum pledged on the day came from Japan, whose pledge of $800 million brings its total commitment to COVAX up to $1 billion.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also said the country would share 30 million vaccine doses “when circumstances allow and at an appropriate time”, Devex reported.
Suga said at the summit: “I made the decision on our contribution, hoping to deliver vaccines, a ray of hope, to as many people as possible, and as early as possible, throughout the world, in an equitable manner. It is our responsibility to overcome the current pandemic crisis and prepare for future health crises, thereby leading the world to ‘build back better’.”
2. European countries stepped up
A lot of commitments came from European Union countries. Combined together, Estonia, Finland, France, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, and Spain pledged €162.9 million ($198 million) to supporting lower income countries fighting the pandemic.
That includes €100 million from France, which was part of a wider commitment pledged at the Global Health Summit in Rome on May 21, but has now been specifically earmarked for COVAX.
Meanwhile, Denmark, Spain, and Sweden together committed to share 20 million vaccine doses to COVAX, which along with a recent pledge of 4 million doses from Belgium, and the pledge from Japan, brings the total new vaccine doses donations up to 54 million.
3. African Union countries will be able to access €300 million for vaccines
The European Union and the European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide the African Union with access to €300 million ($364 million) to purchase vaccines as part of COVAX’s cost-sharing scheme.
The African Union is a cross-continental trade and political organization comprising 55 states — this financing plan will allow countries to purchase additional vaccines through COVAX.
4. Developing countries made important contributions
Together Vietnam, the Philippines, and Mauritius pledged just over $1.5 million to COVAX in an important show of support that puts pressure on wealthier countries to also step up their contributions.
5. More than $300 million was raised by nonprofits and the private sector
Private sector partners mobilized significant resources during this round of pledging for COVAX, according to Gavi. There were also commitments from foundations and philanthropists.
For example, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $50 million, while $28 million came from credit card company Mastercard, and $10 million from tech company Twilio.
Mark Suzman, the CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said: “The world must urgently come together to expand equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, or we risk more deaths and the emergence of new variants that could prolong the pandemic for everyone.”
“Thanks to today’s contributions, especially Japan’s generous pledge and its leadership in global health, we’ve taken an important step towards that goal,” he added. “This summit is a powerful example of what can be achieved when we act collectively to control the pandemic and save lives.”