COVAX Facility seeks an additional $2B for COVID-19 vaccines

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Doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Ethiopia via the COVAX Facility. Photo by: UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-NC-ND

The COVAX Facility, the global initiative for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, is seeking an additional $2 billion in donor funds and $1 billion in cost-sharing from governments to purchase 500 million more doses this year. The funding would be allocated to the facility’s advance market commitment, or AMC, which provides free doses to 92 lower-income countries.

COVAX has already secured $6.3 billion in pledges for rolling out 1.3 billion doses to these countries this year, with the aim of vaccinating 20% of the people in participating nations. Of these pledged funds, the facility has received about $4 billion, said Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao, managing director of resource mobilization, private sector partnerships, and innovative finance at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, during a press conference. COVAX has released 42 million doses for shipment to 113 countries.

In a fundraising drive hosted by Gavi and the United States on Thursday, new pledges totaled $400 million. These came from a variety of countries, private sector partners, and foundations, including $258 million from Sweden, $47 million from the Netherlands, and $30 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

With additional funds, the facility intends to vaccinate nearly 30% of populations — or about half of all adults in the countries it serves, said Seth Berkley, chief executive officer at Gavi.

But right now, the problem is less about money and more about manufacturing capacity, with global supply shortages currently causing delays in delivery. Many AMC-eligible countries were expecting AstraZeneca vaccine doses produced by the Serum Institute of India. But because of its rising number of COVID-19 cases, the Indian government put a temporary hold on the export of the vaccine to meet domestic demand.

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“We need to recognize that the supply of vaccines may be an even more binding constraint than cash flow. Many countries now have dollars available to spend on doses, but rapid deliveries aren’t available,” said David Malpass, president at the World Bank Group, during the fundraising event.

Despite these challenges, it’s important that the facility has financing for advance purchase agreements and that it is readily accessible when doses do become available, Berkley said.

“That’s why the upfront money is critical,” he said.

COVAX is currently reserving doses for the first quarter of next year, Saraka-Yao said.

“If you wait for the vaccine to be on the shelf, it will be too late. It will already be bought by someone else,” she said.

In addition to funds, New Zealand pledged to commit more than 1.6 million doses, focusing on the Pacific region.

“What we are expecting is, of course, a much larger number of excess doses that we know are around to be able to be made available in the near term. That’s really going to depend differently by countries depending upon when they feel comfortable politically to be able to do that,” Berkley said.

“The reason that’s important is that there is a lot of manufacturing capacity that is in countries that, once they get to a certain point, can make doses available globally,” he added.

About the author

  • Sara Jerving

    Sara Jerving is a Global Health Reporter based in Nairobi. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vice News, and Bloomberg News, among others. Sara holds a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was a Lorana Sullivan fellow. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in 2018, part of a Vice News Tonight on HBO team that received an Emmy nomination in 2018 and received the Philip Greer Memorial Award from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2014. She has reported from over a dozen countries.