WHO's COVAX facility aims to have 500 mn Covid-19 vaccine doses ready by early 2021
Pfizer and BioNtech are currently in late stages of talks with the WHO to join the COVAX vaccine alliance.
The World Health Organization's Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan, in a press conference in Geneva said that the apex public health organization hopes to have at least half a billion doses of a working Covid-19 vaccine ready in the first quarter of 2021, through the COVAX facility. So far, some 189 countries have joined the COVAX initiative. The agenda of the initiative is to vaccinate 20 percent of the highest risk populations, including health workers and the elderly.
"The goal is to get at least 2 billion doses by end of 2021, which will be enough to vaccinate 20 percent of the populations of countries that are part of COVAX," chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at the on Friday, 4 December news conference. This may be enough to "bring to an end the acute phase of the pandemic" by reducing mortality and the impact on health systems, she added.
The WHO plans for the first batch – 500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines – to be ready in the first quarter of 2021 to distribute fairly among COVAX partner countries.
"Our goal, our hope is that in the first quarter of 2021 that we would have about half a billion of doses available to be distributed across the countries, in a fair manner," Swaminathan said. "So countries can start expecting doses toward the end of the first quarter of 2021. A few countries may start earlier, it’s likely, possible, that we may have some learnings by going early into a few countries."
The majority of the doses will still be shipped only in the second quarter of 2021, she added.
The United States, despite having one of the most diverse vaccine portfolios, is not a participant in the COVAX initiative. It has bagged many bilateral deals to score millions of doses of the leading vaccine candidates for its citizens.
A joint initiative of WHO, the Gavi Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), COVAX was founded to ensure equitable distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine. It was founded under the WHO's Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator so developing nations are not left behind in the international bidding war for working Covid-19 vaccines.
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