The vaccine procurement and distribution effort, involving over 170 economies, could possibly be the world’s largest and fastest ever operation of its kind.
“This is an all-hands on deck partnership between governments, manufacturers, and multilateral partners to continue the high-stakes fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“In our collective pursuit of a vaccine, UNICEF is leveraging its unique strengths in vaccine supply to make sure that all countries have safe, fast, and equitable access to the initial doses when they are available.”
UNICEF is the world’s largest single vaccine buyer, procuring more than 2 billion doses of various vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.
Some 28 manufacturers have shared their annual production plans for COVID-19 vaccines –through 2023 – with UNICEF, which in a market assessment said the drug makers are willing to collectively produce “unprecedented quantities” of vaccines over the coming 1-2 years.
However, manufacturers signalled that investments to support such large-scale production of doses would be highly dependent on, among other things, whether clinical trials are successful, advance purchase agreements are put in place, funding is confirmed, and regulatory and registration pathways are streamlined.
A key next step, UNICEF said, will be ensuring self-financing economies sign up for the COVAX Facility by 18 September, which will allow COVAX to support early, at-risk investments in increasing manufacturing capacity on a broad scale.
“UNICEF has been a critical partner in Gavi’s success over the last two decades,” said Gavi’s Chief Executive Officer Dr. Seth Berkley.
Over the 20 years, Gavi has reached over 760 million children with life-saving vaccines, preventing more than 13 million deaths.
“[UNICEF] helped us reach more than half the world’s population with life-saving vaccines. This expertise and experience will be important in ensuring that COVAX – as a global effort to procure and deliver safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, on an accelerated timeframe, and at an unprecedented scale – can protect the most at-risk, wherever they may be in the world.”
“Together we can work to end the acute stage of this pandemic, including its devastating impact on individuals, communities, and economies,” added Dr. Berkley.
The COVAX Global Vaccines Facility is the vaccine pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, an initiative launched in April to speed up the development of medicines to treat COVID-19 and make them available to people everywhere.
It is operated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; CEPI, and WHO, alongside multinational and developing country vaccine manufacturers.
The Facility works to ensure as many countries as possible cooperate to pool development, procurement, and allocation of any COVID-19 vaccines.