Late start for COVAX Facility to deliver lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines where they are needed

Stark inequities in global health system put the entire world at risk

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Democratic Republic of Congo 2019 © Samuel Sieber/MSF

February 24, 2021—The COVAX Facility today announced the delivery of its first COVID-19 vaccine doses to Ghana. This first delivery from the COVAX Facility comes over two months after the first people started receiving COVID-19 vaccines in wealthy countries. As World Health Organization head Dr. Tedros Adhanom recently pointed out, 10 countries have currently administered 75 percent of all vaccinations worldwide, while 130 countries hadn’t yet received a single dose.

The COVAX Facility is the globally agreed upon procurement mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines, led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in partnership with WHO, CEPI, and UNICEF. COVAX aims to cover on average 3.3 percent of the total population (of the 145 country participants receiving doses) by June 2021. Meanwhile, some wealthy governments are aiming for herd immunity of their populations—which includes vaccinating people not at highest risk—by the summer. This disastrous inequity puts the entire world at risk.

Kate Elder, Senior Vaccines Policy Advisor for MSF's Access Campaign, said of today's announcement:

“This is an important day for the many countries that still haven’t received a single dose and are relying on COVAX to supply them with lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, but it’s a very small, late start, when what we need right now is a massive injection of doses to many more countries.

From the start of the pandemic, the brazen dash of wealthy governments to gobble up scarce global supply has left other countries in the lurch, shining a light on the inequities in our current system that put the entire world at risk.

We call on governments that have signed deals directly with pharmaceutical corporations for COVID-19 vaccines to share their doses so that people at highest risk for COVID-19 in developing countries can be vaccinated before people at low risk in wealthy countries. Governments must push pharmaceutical corporations to immediately work with COVAX to provide sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines at affordable prices so that people in priority groups in developing countries can be protected in this pandemic—this may mean postponing deliveries to wealthy countries while the world works to catch up on protecting the most at-risk people living in developing countries.

The stark inequity that the world is experiencing around COVID-19 vaccines is a byproduct of our broken biomedical system. If we want to avoid this deplorable situation in the future, we need a massive change in the way medical products are developed and made accessible around the world.”