In depth: What is the COVAX programme and why is it important?
Recently, the chief of the World Health Organisation (WHO) thanked India for supporting vaccine equity. Through committing to COVAX, India is helping more than 60 countries to start vaccinating their health workers and other priority groups. So what is this COVAX programme?
Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines led by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and others. COVAX brings together experts from around the world to collaborate on the research and development of a wide range of Covid-19 vaccine candidates and the manufacturing, procurement, and delivery of the vaccines once approved. The facility aims to distribute doses to 2 billion people by the end of 2021. The vaccines are targeted for WHO-defined priority populations, including frontline health care workers and other groups at high risk.
The poorer neighbours
The program wants to vaccinate roughly 20% of the population in the 92 Advance Market Commitment (AMC) countries, which include middle and lower-income nations that cannot afford to pay for Covid-19 vaccines. Simply put, underdeveloped and developing countries which cannot afford to manufacture or buy vaccines for their people come under this programme.
The Human factor
India is already manufacturing two vaccines, and is a part of the programme. Ghana became the first country in the world to receive a shipment of coronavirus vaccines under the COVAX program. About 600,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in Pune (the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world), were sent to Accra in Ghana last month. The other countries likely to receive the vaccines include Afghanistan, Haiti, DR Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia. Pakistan has already received 10,000 doses.
But would it contain Covid?
Even if COVAX’s target is met, it would still fall short of the level of immunity that experts say is needed to end the pandemic. But The WHO has suggested that stopping Covid-19 will require at least 70% of the global population to have immunity. At that rate, it may take years to vaccine the whole population of the earth. But still, there is hope as even a small immunised community is better than absolutely vulnerable people.