Wednesday Jun 02 2021

GAVI secures $2.4 bn for coronavirus jabs for COVAX


GENEVA/ZURICH: GAVI Vaccine Alliance received a huge boost on Wednesday as multiple countries pledged close to $2.4 billion to the COVAX vaccine-sharing plan so that the COVID-19 shots are available to people in poorer nations.

The announcements, ranging from $2,500 from island nation Mauritius to millions of dollars and doses from larger, wealthier countries, came during a video summit hosted by Japan and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, which leads the COVAX facility alongside the World Health Organisation.

"We have taken a big step towards 'one-world protected'," said Jose Manuel Barroso, GAVI vaccine alliance chairman. The fresh funds brought total COVAX financing to $9.6 billion, he added.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose government pledged $800 million, called the result "an extremely significant and meaningful step" toward equitable vaccine access.

Read more: Sinopharm says it has capacity to provide over 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021

The COVAX mechanism, which has distributed 77 million doses to 127 countries, aims to accelerate access to 1.8 billion vaccine doses, covering nearly 30% of poorer nations' populations.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the pledge drive as putting COVAX "on a war-footing to finance the fight".

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country was giving a further $50 million to COVAX, upping his nation's total donation to $130 million.

Canada, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Luxembourg were among other countries to announce new donations, while Spanish Prime Minister Sanchez, who pledged 15 million doses and 50 million euros ($61 million), said: "Only by leading by example we will be effective in preaching solidarity."

Read more: Heads of global organizations issue joint call for vaccine equality 

US Vice President Kamala Harris referenced the United States' $2 billion contributions this year and $2 billion earmarked for next year but made no specific announcements on fresh US funding.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated long-running concerns that Western nations have vaccinated high percentages of their people, while health workers in places like Africa remain unprotected.

"Of the 1.8 billion vaccines administered globally just 0.4% have been administered in low-income countries," he said. "This is ethically, epidemiologically and economically unacceptable."