COVAX is the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level, announced on 18 December 2020 that it had arrangements in place to access nearly two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, on behalf of 190 participating economies.
At an early stage during this Coronavirus pandemic, it quickly became apparent that to end this global crisis the world don’t just need COVID-19 vaccines, but also need to ensure that everyone in the world has access to them. This triggered global leaders to call for a solution that would accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as diagnostics and treatments, and guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to them for people in all countries. Today they have that solution – COVAX. The result of an extraordinary and unique global collaboration, with more than two-thirds of the world engaged – COVAX has the world’s largest and most diverse portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines, and as such represents the world’s best hope of bringing the acute phase of this pandemic to a swift end.
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by CEPI, Gavi and WHO – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.
What is COVAX?
COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April 2020 by the World Health Organisation (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.
What COVAX offers
- Doses for at least 20% of countries' populations
- Diverse and actively managed portfolio of vaccines
- Vaccines delivered as soon as they are available
- End the acute phase of the pandemic
- Rebuild economies
On 18 December 2020 COAX announced new deals that include the signing of an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca for 170 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford candidate, and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Johnson & Johnson for 500 million doses of the Janssen candidate, which was being investigated as a single dose vaccine. These deals were in addition to existing agreements COVAX had with the Serum Institute of India (SII) for 200 million doses – with options for up to 900 million doses more – of either the AstraZeneca/Oxford or Novavax candidates, as well as a statement of intent for 200 million doses of the Sanofi/GSK vaccine candidate.
In addition to this, COVAX also has – through R&D partnership agreements – first right of refusal in 2021 to access potentially more than one billion doses (based on current estimates from the manufacturing processes under development) that will be produced, subject to technical success and regulatory approval, by candidates in the COVAX R&D Portfolio.
COVAX R&D Portfolio
As part of the COVAX R&D portfolio, as of 18 December 2020 CEPI had invested in 10 vaccine candidates. 9 of these candidates were still in development, and 7 were in clinical trials.
- AstraZeneca/ University of Oxford (Phase 3)
- Clover Biopharmaceuticals, China (Phase 1)
- CureVac, Germany (Phase 2B/3)
- Inovio, USA (Phase 2)
- Institut Pasteur/Merck/Themis, France/USA/Austria (Phase 1)
- Moderna, USA (Phase 3)
- Novavax, USA (Phase 3)
- SK bioscience, South Korea (Preclinical)
- University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (Preclinical)
- University of Queensland/ CSL, Australia (Phase 1, programme discontinued)
COVAX Statement on New Variants of SARS-CoV-2
COVAX released a statement on 8 February 2021 that the emergence of variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, serve as a powerful reminder that viruses by their very nature mutate, and that the scientific response may need to adapt if they are to remain effective against them.
In light of recent news stories regarding the preliminary data on minimal effectiveness of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine at preventing mild to moderate COVID-19 disease caused by the viral variant B.1.351, it is important to note that primary analysis of data from Phase III trials has so far shown – in the context of viral settings without this variant – that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine offers protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death. This means it is vitally important now to determine the vaccine’s effectiveness when it comes to preventing more severe illness caused by the B.1.351 variant.
Additional studies will also allow us to confirm the optimal vaccination schedule and its impact on vaccine efficacy. CEPI announced funding for additional clinical research to optimize and extend the use of existing vaccines, which could include "mix-and-match" studies of different vaccines used in combinations that may improve the quality and strength of the immune response. Such studies could be useful in optimizing the use of available vaccines, including the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine
COVAX Allocation to Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has been allocated 984,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, down from the initial 1,152 million, under a revised schedule just published by Gavi, the global vaccine alliance.
According to the revised schedule of first round allocations, 237 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine – manufactured under licence by Serum Institute of India – will be distributed to 142 countries between February and May 2021. An interim allocation forecast published early February had estimated that 336 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would become available by June 2021.
Ghana and Ivory Coast became the first countries in the world to receive vaccines under the COVAX scheme. The two countries began inoculating people early March 2021. Under the new schedule, Zimbabwe is in line to receive 984,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, down from the 1,152 million doses in terms of the preliminary allocation roster published in February 2021.