The World Health Organization and key partners unveiled a plan Friday to purchase 2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines for the highest risk populations of the world.

The plan anticipates that by the end of 2021, the doses could be delivered to countries to vaccinate high risk individuals, likely including health care workers, people over the age of 65, and other adults who suffer from conditions like diabetes.

The WHO and its partners — the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — estimate it will cost $18.1 billion to deliver on the plan. The effort is one pillar of the WHO’s effort to ensure all countries have access to Covid-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, called the ACT Accelerator, short for Access to Covid-19 Tools.

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In addition to the funding — $11.3 billion of which must be raised in the next six months — the project would also need commitments from high- and upper-middle income countries to purchase up to 950 million doses of vaccine.

Countries will be offered “shares” of the nine candidate vaccines that CEPI is supporting, as well as other vaccines the consortium may end up purchasing. The idea is that because it is not known which vaccines will be successful, purchasing shares in a pool — to be called the Covax facility — will broaden a country’s chances of having access to vaccines. It is expected that charitable donors will help support shares for low- and middle-income countries.

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Individual countries that can afford to do so are negotiating advance direct purchase agreements with various manufacturers — and are even helping to pay upfront for the cost of making vaccine before it has been shown to be effective. But should a country make a big investment in one vaccine, only to see it fail, it could find itself with limited alternatives in the early days of vaccine availability, when demand will be huge and supply scarce.

“It’s risky for them to do that and it’s also not ethically the right approach, because it leaves the rest of the world without vaccine doses,” said Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist.

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That risk is real. Vaccines are difficult to make and historically more vaccine projects fail than succeed. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said about 7% of vaccines make it through preclinical development, and maybe 15% to 20% that enter the clinic are successful.

“The vast majority will fail, but by having a large portfolio this will move forward,” Berkley said. He noted the facility has signed a memorandum of understanding for 300 million doses with AstraZeneca, which is partnering with Oxford University on a vaccine that has already begun a Phase 3 clinical trial.

Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s chief executive officer, said production support of a number of vaccine candidates gives Covax a right of first refusal to vaccine doses where the program has provided financial support for the manufacturing of the vaccine.

“The advantage of the facility is that it is the ‘first customer in line’ for those projects where access agreements exist but it can also go out to the market and buy any vaccine. And the large volume guarantees will be very attractive to companies,” Hatchett said.

According to the WHO, there are currently 16 Covid-19 vaccines in clinical trials already, and at least another 125 in earlier stages of development.

  • We pray to God for a vaccine as early as possible to stop these deaths. Everything is possible with God so let’s hope there is an end to this menace. May these vaccines under trial or being tested work well for us in Jesus name.

  • Sadly, major economies are pouring cash into a vaccine and africa will say give us free or reduced pricing…. as they always do… making it harder for normal people in those western countries paying taxes for such funding; to get the vaccine. This has always outraged me. One of the main reasons the USA has some of the most expensive medicine prices in the world. Because of all the do gooders. Hope those same do gooders get sick and keel over dead. They are ruining america and the freedom/flavor of life. Sadly, people don’t remember how nice america was before we allowed unfettered immigration to change the soul of our country; much less all the freebies and giveaways. Like we have not been paying reparations all along. Compare certain population numbers in the USA to the states use of federal money (bankruptcies) and see what I’m talking about; but the media lies and the govt blocks certain data. When the USA falls into a third world status for most americans… I hope everyone remembers to thank the do gooders. Africa along with many other poor countries should be working thru charities; not black balling a govt for their funding.

  • Unfortunately, this article fails to clarify a key feature of this “ambitious” plan. Nearly 50% of first 2 billion vaccine doses produced by the end of 2021 will be reserved for the rich countries that buy into the COVAX facility, leaving another 1 billion for low- and middle-income countries if sufficient money is donated. The population of upper-income countries is 1.4 billion, but for LMICs is 6.4 billion (with China excluded, 5 billion). Thus people in rich countries will get access rights 5 times greater than people in LMICs, horrifyingly suggesting that lives in LMICs are worth 1/5 of lives in rich countries (1/3.6 if China is excluded). If these projections occur, which itself highly uncertain because so little financing has actually been committed (14% of estimated need), then the world will not achieve equitable access – it will again perpetuate lingering illness and death for most of the world’s population.

  • Did they say end of 2021 ? Wow that’s really far for this to go on for ??? We can’t live like this ..the world is a big MESS.

  • I don’t understand why someone can’t speed the process of vaccine development especially since this pandemic is so deadly and infectious. With well over one hundred companies in different stages of development, why can’t we eliminate some of the red tape and allow for more aggressive testing/trials. Why can’t data be gathered during the trials so that when they are complete, immediate approval be granted. Why three stages of trials. Why can’t stage 2 trials be expanded to include more people so stage three could be eliminated? It would seem that lives are not being considered here. Only protocol for these type of trials. As former vice president Biden would say, “Come on man”

    • Can you imagine a result where distribution of a bad vaccine could be worse than no vaccine at all? I certainly can.

    • Steve Bornfeld – I am curious about how a bad vaccine would be worse than no vaccine – can you tell me how you believe that is possible? GIven that the vaccine would work, at least partly, under the old case fatality rates given us, the vaccine would have to be really, really terrible to be worse than no vaccine. If it turns out this thing is only severe 1/10th as often as they told us – maybe them – but I do not see any serious chance any vaccine will be bad enough to be worse than none at all.

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