COVID Vaccine Update: WHO Renews Call for Countries to Join Its COVAX Platform

By      13-Aug 2020       Reading Time: 6 Mins

COVID Vaccine Update: WHO Renews Call for Countries to Join Its COVAX Platform

The World Health Organisation also assured the countries who join the initiative to get supply of vaccines whenever they become successful. The countries will get assured supplies to protect at least 20 per cent of their populations.

The COVAX facility is an international alliance aimed at accelerating the development and manufacture of novel Coronavirus vaccines, and ensuring equitable access to all.  The COVAX facility, launched in the last week of April, is stitching together agreements with developers and manufacturers of vaccine candidates it thinks are most likely to succeed.

The World Health Organisation has renewed its invite to countries to join its COVAX facility. The facility is trying to raise funds to support the rapid development of promising candidates, and the quick expansion of manufacturing capacities, so that the vaccines once approved, could be produced on large scale. According to its initial estimates, US$ 18.1 billion were required to cover the costs of research and development, manufacturing, and delivery of vaccines to different countries. The facility aims to procure at least two billion doses of a novel Coronavirus vaccine by the end of next year, for deployment and distribution mainly in the low and middle income countries.

The latest announcement does not say how many countries had already joined the initiative. But in a July 15 statement, the WHO had said that 75 countries had submitted their expressions of interest in joining the COVAX facility, and had shown willingness to help raise the requisite funds. 

The WHO has been saying the COVAX facility, by backing multiple vaccine candidates, would ensure that it would have access to whichever vaccine candidate is finally approved for use. At the same time, countries that do not have the resources of the United States to get into individual bilateral agreements with multiple vaccine developers for securing supplies in advance, can still hope to get access to the vaccines by joining this facility.

Last week’s agreement between the Pune-based Serum Institute of India and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for production of 100 million doses of the vaccine for low and middle-income countries was part of the COVAX mechanism. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with GAVI (previously called Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, now just GAVI), and CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) are working together with WHO in executing the COVAX mechanism. These 100 million doses would be provided to the eligible countries at a price of US$ 3 per doses. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to provide US$ 150 million to Serum to quickly increase its manufacturing capacity.

Going by Russia’s previous announcements, a Coronavirus vaccine candidate, being developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, is expected to win regulatory approval this week. It would become the first novel Coronavirus vaccine to get approval for public use, though a Chinese vaccine has already been approved for “limited use”. The Chinese vaccine is being used only on army personnel right now.

Russia has previously claimed that the vaccine being developed by Gamaleya Institute in collaboration with the country’s defence ministry would be approved by August 12, and that it would be made available for public use by September. The country plans to start mass production of vaccinations starting from October.

The superfast speed at which it has been produced — other candidates are unlikely to appear on the horizon before at least the end of the year — has led to scepticism regarding the safety and effectiveness of the Russian vaccine. Especially so, since the human trials for the vaccine, which takes several years in normal circumstances, have been completed in less than two months.

Russia claims that this was made possible due to the fact that the Coronavirus vaccine under development very closely resembles a vaccine for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) disease, caused by another coronavirus, that has already been tested extensively.

But at least Britain, according to a news report in London’s Telegraph newspaper, has decided against using the Russian vaccine on its people.

Over to you

Till the time vaccine comes up, we recommend our readers to keep practicing social distancing, wear a mask whenever outdoor and keep washing hands.

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