As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact people around the world, countries are joining together to help fight the virus.
As of Monday, a total of 156 countries have agreed on a landmark deal — either through written commitments or confirmations of intent to participate — to prioritize the equitable distribution of any new coronavirus vaccines between developed and developing countries.
The COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan, or COVAX, will ensure that 3% of participating countries’ populations will have access to vaccines. So far, governments, vaccine manufacturers, organizations, and individuals have already raised $1.4 billion for vaccine research and development.
COVAX is coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Together, the groups are working to support the research, development, and manufacturing of potential vaccines. After the successful development of a vaccine, COVAX will also be involved in negotiating vaccine pricing.
The coalition hopes to develop 2 billion doses of a new vaccine by the end of 2021 to protect and support high-risk people, vulnerable populations, and frontline health care workers.
Without a coalition dedicated to ensuring equal distribution, there is a very real risk that the majority of people around the world will be unprotected against the COVID-19 virus. While wealthy, self-financing countries have been negotiating deals with vaccine producers, poorer countries do not have the resources to fund vaccine development.
The coalition of countries reflects nearly two-thirds of the global population. Out of the 156 countries, 64 are classified as higher-income or developed countries while 92 are low- and middle-income countries.
“By pooling financial and scientific resources, these participating economies will be able to insure themselves against the failure of any individual vaccine candidate and secure successful vaccines in a cost-effective, target way,” a press release by the WHO stated.
Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, shared the WHO’s sentiment.
“Governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere,” he told the Guardian.
COVAX is one of the pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which launched at the end of April at an event hosted by the director-general of the WHO, the president of France, the president of the European Commission, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The ACT Accelerator also focuses on diagnostic, therapeutics, and health system strengthening beyond vaccine development in their work to alleviate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the coronavirus has affected people around the world regardless of their nationality, race, where they live or their financial resources, the overarching goal of both initiatives is to ensure that a person can access tests, treatments, and vaccines for COVID-19 no matter what.