African countries are signing up Covax, a ground-breaking initiative, which aims to speedily and affordably secure at least 220 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine for the continent, once licensed and approved.
Covax is a global initiative co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It seeks to ensure access to a Covid-19 vaccine for both higher and middle-income countries which will self-finance their own participation, and lower-middle-income and low-income countries which will have their participation supported by its Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
All the 54 countries on the continent have expressed interest in the initiative, according to Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO Africa’s Programme Area Manager for Immunization and Vaccine Development.
So far, there are eight countries in Africa that have agreed to self-finance their vaccine doses through the Covax initiative.
In addition, 46 countries in Africa are eligible for support from the financing instrument, the COVAX AMC which has raised approximately US$ 700 million against an initial target of securing US$ 2 billion seed funding from high-income donor countries, as well as private sector and philanthropists by the end of 2020.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa referred to the Covax as a ground-breaking global initiative that will include African countries and ensure they are not left at the back of the queue for COVID-19 vaccines.
“By reaching beyond the continent to work together with other governments and manufacturers on a global scale and pooling buying power, countries can protect the people most vulnerable to the disease in Africa,” she said.
CEPI is leading Covax vaccine research and aims to develop up to three safe and effective vaccines that will be made available to countries participating in the Covax initiative.
Nine candidate vaccines are currently being supported by CEPI; two are currently being tested in South Africa, in addition to other regions around the world.
Dr Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive Officer, CEPI said it’s critical that countries in Africa participate in vaccine trials, in addition to the clinical trials taking place in other regions of the world.
“Testing vaccines on the continent ensures that sufficient data is generated on the safety and efficacy of the most promising vaccine candidates for the African population so they can be confidently rolled out in Africa once vaccines are approved,” he said.
Mihigo urged that to roll out a vaccine effectively across countries in Africa, it is critical that communities are engaged and understand the need for vaccination.
“It is important to already start working with communities to prepare the way for one of the largest vaccination campaigns Africa has ever experienced,” he said.
Through Covax, vaccines that have passed regulatory approval or WHO prequalification will be delivered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations.
Health workers and other vulnerable populations will be prioritized and then vaccine availability will expand to cover additional priority populations in participating countries.