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Vaccine ImpactFebruary 9, 2022

COVAX and the 2022 Investment Opportunity

With the start of third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the time to focus on of COVAX and vaccine equity is now.

As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of COVAX and vaccine equity has never been more urgent. The most recent statistics show that while 77% of people in affluent countries like the United States have received at least one dose, less than 10% of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated against COVID-19. This pandemic will never end unless it ends globally.

This is where COVAX steps in: the global initiative is the main mechanism working to secure and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world. Read on to learn more about COVAX and how its 2022 Investment Opportunity will help end the pandemic.

What is COVAX?

COVAX is a multilateral effort to accelerate the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and ensure that they are equitably distributed worldwide. It is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives (CEPI), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF – and engages 190 governments and economies.

Countries participate in the COVAX facility in different ways. The COVAX Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) is a financing mechanism that provides COVID-19 vaccines to the facility’s 92 participating low and middle-income countries, who would not be able to afford to purchase them on their own.

Under the larger umbrella effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), COVAX is the name of the pillar focused on vaccine procurement and distribution.  The other three pillars focus on diagnostics, treatment, and health system strengthening.

How does COVAX work?

COVAX helps secure vaccine doses for all participating economies. COVAX is beneficial because it pools vaccine demand among all participating countries. This gives them greater negotiating power to purchase doses at a lower price in bulk from vaccine manufacturers, rather than having country governments individually negotiate supply contracts.

Let’s take a look at what COVAX has done over the last few years, and how it will continue to evolve in 2022.

picture of officials at COVAX reception

The History of COVAX

2020: Research, Development, and Fundraising Foundations

Following the establishment of COVAX in April 2020, the initiative began intensive funding rounds, raising over 25% of its initial $2 billion dollar request in just two months. This money supported vaccine innovation, ancillary vaccination costs such as syringes and needles, and technical assistance and distribution mechanisms. At the Global Vaccine Summit in June 2020, the facility launched the COVAX AMC. By the fall of 2020, more than 170 countries joined COVAX, and the organization achieved its $2 billion dollar goal due to support from both governments and private donors.

Following thorough research, development, and emergency use authorization processes, multiple vaccine candidates were approved by CEPI and WHO for international distribution through COVAX.

2021: Early Distribution and Supply Challenges

In early 2021, COVAX  distributed the first wave of vaccines to its 92 participating low and middle-income countries. In February, COVAX delivered the first vaccines to Ghana, then to Cote d’Ivoire and Moldova. Later in the year, COVAX consciously expanded its vaccine distribution plan through the Humanitarian Buffer to enable refugees, migrants, and individuals in conflict zones to receive COVID-19 vaccines, as they are often unaccounted for in countries’ own vaccination campaigns.

The vaccines’ impacts were both significant and immediate. For example, a study in Uruguay found that COVAX vaccines helped prevent a major national case spike by decreasing hospitalization and death rates by over 90% and infection rates by more than 60%. By the end of 2021, COVAX supplied 82% of all administered COVID-19 vaccines in low-income countries, demonstrating its strong positive effects on global vaccination.

At the same time, 2021 also brought many challenges to the initiative. High-income countries prioritized vaccinating their own citizens, and delayed shipments to low-income economies caused slow vaccination progress in many African, Latin American, and Asian countries. Export restrictions, logistical roadblocks, and limited vaccine delivery capabilities also undermined COVID-19 vaccine distribution. As a result, the initiative did not meet its end-of-year target vaccination rate of 40% within each country.

Despite this setback, COVAX undoubtedly made great progress on global vaccination rates in 2021. Its challenges provide the organization with opportunities to learn and improve in 2022.

2022: The COVAX Investment Opportunity and Beyond

In 2022, the goal is for countries to vaccinate 70% of their populations by the middle of the year. COVAX has already made exciting progress in this regard. In mid-January, the initiative hit an exciting milestone: the delivery of 1 billion total vaccine doses to 144 countries and territories.

Still, a significant and critical portion of the world remains unvaccinated—particularly in low and middle-income countries. Furthermore, the challenges faced by COVAX in 2021 need to be addressed. It is clear that continued investment in the COVAX AMC is necessary to protect people from COVID-19 worldwide.

Goals of the 2022 Investment Opportunity

Increasing funding for the COVAX AMC is necessary to respond to roadblocks, achieve the 70% target, and ensure that the initiative is prepared against all future challenges—like new variants and the need for booster shots. With this investment, COVAX officials estimate that up to 1.27 million lives can be saved.

The COVAX AMC Investment Opportunity aims to raise $5.2 billion in additional donor funding by March 2022. This funding would go towards the organization’s three-pronged strategy:

  1. Creation of a Pandemic Vaccine Pool of at least 600 million additional doses to improve vaccine coverage, which includes boosters to health workers and high-risk populations
  2. Increased funding for ancillary vaccination costs, such as syringes and insurance
  3. Investments in in-country delivery and vaccine distribution systems, including investments in the cold chain, community outreach, and more

The next few weeks of fundraising are critical for improving COVAX’s operations and continuing its unprecedented successes. The Investment Opportunity will enable equitable distribution of vaccines, thereby improving health outcomes, stopping the rise of new variants, and ending the pandemic. We call on international donors, the private sector, and others to fully fund the COVAX AMC and help break COVID now.

quote about importance of COVID-19 vaccine equity

Want to take action to support global vaccination and COVAX’s vaccine distribution in 2022? Follow and retweet us on Twitter @ShotatLife, or by using the prompt below: 

The @GAVI COVAX initiative shows us that only truly multilateral solutions will end the pandemic. International donors and the private sector must fully fund the COVAX AMC and help equitably distribute vaccines and #BreakCOVIDNow

Allison Cho