As COVID-19 vaccination programmes begin to roll out across the globe, the European Union and the World Health Organization are working to ensure equitable access to vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. The European Union has announced an additional €500m for the COVAX Facility, the global initiative that is leading efforts to secure fair and equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The WHO has also welcomed new commitments made by France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America to the COVAX initiative.
Equitable Access to Vaccines
This new pledge from the European Union contributes to COVAX’s target to deliver 1.3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2021.
Announcing the new contribution at the G7 virtual leaders’ meeting, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Last year, as part of our Coronavirus Global Response, we committed to ensuring universal access to vaccines everywhere on Earth, for everyone who would need them. COVAX is best placed to help us reach this goal. This is why we decided to double the European Commission’s contribution to COVAX, to €1 billion. With this new financial boost, we want to make sure vaccines are soon delivered to low and middle-income countries. Because we will only be safe if the whole world is safe.”
Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships, added: “We are in a race against the virus and COVAX is our best hope that all our partners, in Africa and elsewhere, have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The EU has been leading efforts in international fora, such as the G20 and G7, to guarantee that collectively we ensure that COVID-19 vaccines become a global public good. This is why today we are doubling our support to COVAX.”
The contribution is composed of a new €300m EU grant and €200m in guarantees by the European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+) that will back a loan by the European Investment Bank subject to the adoption of the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) by the Council and the European Parliament. To date, a total of 191 countries are participating in the COVAX Facility, 92 of them low and middle-income economies eligible to get access to COVID-19 vaccines through Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
As part of the initiative, the COVID-19 vaccines will be procured and delivered to countries by the UNICEF Supply Division and the PAHO’s Revolving Fund for Access to Vaccines.
Working together against COVID-19
The World Health Organization and Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus have welcomed the growing movement of people and organisations which are now uniting together under the banner of vaccine equity. He said: “There is a growing movement behind vaccine equity, and I welcome that world leaders are stepping up to the challenge by making new commitments to effectively end this pandemic by sharing doses and increasing funds to COVAX.“This can't be business as usual and there is an urgent need for countries to share doses and technology, scale-up manufacturing and ensure that there is a sustainable supply of vaccines so that everyone, everywhere can receive a vaccine.”
Almost 7,000 people and hundreds of organisations have already signed on to a vaccine equity declaration that directly calls on governments and manufacturers to speed up regulatory processes, boost manufacturing, and ensure that doses are shared equitably.
Dr Keith C Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and Chairman of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) said: “Today, thankfully we are at that place where we now have tested and proven vaccines. A brightening light is shining on our way towards a more successful response to the still marauding virus.”