KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 22 — Southeast Asian countries Singapore and Brunei are among 64 higher-income economies that have formally signed up with COVAX, a Covid-19 vaccine access plan co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to a statement yesterday by coordinators of the COVAX Facility — vaccine alliance GAVI, WHO, and the Coalition for Epidemic and Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) — with the legally binding commitment agreements signed by 64 nations, the COVAX Facility will now start signing formal agreements with vaccine manufacturers and developers.
“COVAX is now in business: governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere,” said GAVI CEO Dr Seth Berkley.
“With the commitments we’re announcing today for the COVAX Facility, as well as the historic partnership we are forging with industry, we now stand a far better chance of ending the acute phase of this pandemic once safe, effective vaccines become available.”
COVAX coordinators said these commitment agreements will commit higher income governments to provide an upfront payment to reserve vaccine doses by October 9.
Despite the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) announcing on September 19 that Malaysia would be joining COVAX, Malaysia has not yet been listed among the 64 official participants. MOSTI said then that the Malaysian government was still discussing with GAVI the terms of Malaysia’s participation. COVAX coordinators expect a further 38 economies to sign in the coming days.
The 64 members of the COVAX Facility will be joined by 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for financial assistance to procure vaccines through the GAVI COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a financing instrument aimed at supporting the procurement of vaccines for these countries.
This means that 156 economies, representing roughly 64 per cent of the global population in total, are now either committed to or eligible for the COVAX Facility. As Malaysia is classified as an upper middle-income country, Malaysia would likely be expected to join the 64 self-financing higher-income economies to purchase the coronavirus vaccines from their national budgets.
Besides Singapore and Brunei, the 64 higher-income economies that have signed commitment agreements to the COVAX Facility, as of September 21, include Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, as well as the European Commission on behalf of 27 European Union (EU) member states plus Norway and Iceland. China and the United States were not listed.
Malaysia also has not been listed, as of September 21, among the countries that have submitted non-binding confirmations of intent to participate in COVAX. The United Kingdom and South Korea were among the economies that confirmed their intention to join COVAX.
Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry shared yesterday a statement by the Friends of the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility (FOF) in support of COVAX. The FOF, co-chaired by Singapore and Switzerland, comprises the EU and 14 countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
“Ending the Covid-19 pandemic requires a bold, collective effort. We encourage other countries to join this collective global effort to support vaccine multilateralism, and to ensure the unimpeded fair and equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines worldwide,” said FOF.
COVAX, which aims to provide two billion vaccine doses by the end of next year that can vaccinate one billion people (assuming a two-dose regimen), requires a further US$700-800 million to move the portfolio forward, after receiving commitments of US$1.4 billion from governments, vaccine manufacturers (in addition to their own research and development), organisations, and individuals. COVAX also aims to raise US$300 million to fund WHO’s Solidarity Trial on potential coronavirus medicines.
The GAVI COVAX AMC, which supports participating low- and middle-income economies, has so far raised about US$700 million from sovereign donors and philanthropy and the private sector, against an initial US$2 billion target of seed funding by the end of the year.