What is the CoVax Vaccine Alliance?
The CoVax Vaccine Alliance is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France in response to this pandemic. Bringing together governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. The CoVax pillar is focussed on the latter. It is the only truly global solution to this pandemic because it is the only effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth.
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The Global COVID-19 Pledging Conference for CoVax Alliance of 4 May 2020, culminated in the creation of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. President Ramaphosa, of South Africa, was elected as co-Chair of ACT-A Facilitation Council during the meeting held on 10 September 2020.
COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the ACT-A and is co-led by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and WHO. It aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
The CoVax pillar aims to offer advance purchase agreements for vaccine candidates meeting technical threshold criteria. COVAX aims to procure a cumulative 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 including an emergency buffer (10% of doses). The aim is to ensure that participating countries receive allocations of a vaccine as quickly as possible by procuring the highest possible volume of vaccine from each manufacturer at economically efficient prices tiered for countries according to GDP. This will allow globally fair and equitable allocation of vaccines. Gavi is managing the activities around access to vaccines.
Gavi has created the CoVax Facility through which self-financing economies and funded economies can both participate. Within this, a funding mechanism, the Gavi Advance Market Commitment (AMC), will support access to COVID-19 vaccines for 92 lower-income economies. The CoVax Facility will negotiate for and provide all participating countries access to the same vaccine as and when they become available, based on the participant’s selected quantity. Gavi approached the Department of Health with an offer to participate in this investment opportunity to ensure access to vaccines against COVID-19. On 31 August 2020, the Director-General of the National Department of Health submitted a non-binding expression of interest in the CoVax South Africa rollout.
The CoVax Facility is offering Self-financing countries two different options to participate in. (1) In the “Committed Purchase” option, participating countries make a lower upfront payment, but need to make firm guarantees to procure doses from the Facility without the option to opt-out of specific candidates. (2) In the “Optional Purchase” option, participating countries make a larger upfront payment, but can opt-out of vaccine allocations while they still reserve the option for later vaccines.
In order to gain access to vaccines rapidly, South Africa agreed to participate in the Committed Purchase option of the CoVax to vaccinate at least 10% of South Africa’s population. Initially, the supply of vaccines will be constrained and specific criteria need to be applied to prioritise those who should be eligible for vaccination. For example, those at high risk of exposure such as our frontline health care workers and the medically vulnerable.
It is expected that South Africa will receive the first batch of vaccines in quarter two of 2021.