WHO’s Latest Initiative for Global Access to COVID-19 Vaccines By 2021

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues, many worry about when a vaccine will emerge. Fortunately, a vaccine is on the way, and many are hopeful that it will be found before the end of the year. However, due to underlying terms such as time and strategy in manufacturing and distribution, it could be a while before it reaches everyone. 

On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) and two global health nonprofits said that they have a plan that would cost $18 billion to acquire two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines for distribution in developing nations, fulfilling the goal of not only distributing the vaccine among countries but doing so in an equitable manner. WHO is said to be taking this approach because they don’t want wealthier nations dominating the supply when stocks are limited in the early days of the vaccine’s production. 

“The principle of equitable access is a simple thing to say, but a complicated thing to implement—it requires active collaboration between governments, industry, health organizations, civil-society organizations and communities,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Several more developed countries such as the U.S., have made deals providing millions of dollars in financing to pharmaceutical companies in exchange for early access to their vaccine, if it is successful.

The WHO-organized vaccine drive will be spearheaded by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). GAVI negotiates and helps finance supplies of vaccines for poorer countries and CEPI works to ensure access to new vaccines for emerging infectious diseases during outbreaks. 

This initiative must display the success of the vaccines in human tests and will have to raise much of the expected $18 billion cost for vaccines, drugs, and tests, from donors.

WHO officials said that a part of the plan is to pool financial resources and invest in a number of vaccine development efforts, instead of backing and depending on a single manufacturer.

The effort is part of a broader WHO initiative that is also seeking to expand access to treatments and testing to poorer countries with less-developed healthcare systems. In total, the WHO projects the efforts will cost $31.3 billion over the next 12 months. However, only $3.4 billion has been raised. 

The goal of the vaccine component of the drive, as explained by WHO, is to “end the acute phase of the global pandemic by the end of 2021” by successfully accumulating two billion doses of the vaccine by the end of next year.