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Global Vaccine Funds in Covid-19 Relief Bill

Congress west portico

(A. Kotok)

21 Dec. 2020. The Covid-19 relief bill that the U.S. Congress expects to pass today has more funds for an international group distributing vaccines to low-resource regions. The legislation includes language providing $3.36 billion to GAVI, the international vaccine alliance, according to a statement issued last night by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House and Democratic party leader Chuck Schumer in the Senate.

In their statement, the Congressional party leaders say, “Democrats secured an additional $3.36 billion for a total of $4 billion for GAVI, the international vaccine alliance, recognizing that we are not truly safe until the whole world is safe from the coronavirus.” As Yahoo Finance reports, however, a Republican Senate proposal in July also offered $3 billion for GAVI alliance emergency programs. The U.S. has supported GAVI alliance efforts over the years, totaling $1.4 billion since 2016, according to Yahoo Finance.

The GAVI alliance, based in Geneva, Switzerland, designed and operates the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access, or Covax facility backed by World Health Organization, European Union, and non-government organizations to provide worldwide equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, an early funder of several Covid-19 vaccines, is also a major partner in the Covax facility, which has financial support from 98 countries. Those contributions will support vaccine distribution to another 92 countries in lower resource regions. On 1 September, however, the Trump administration announced it would not take part in Covax.

Covax adds nearly two billion doses

On Friday, Covax announced the project made arrangements to secure nearly two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines. Those arrangements, says Covax, will mean 1.3 billion of those doses will be made available to 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for assistance through Covax’s advance market commitment mechanism. That mechanism uses funds donated from 98 higher-income economies to purchase vaccines at large enough volumes to qualify for discounted prices.

Covax says its agreements include new deals for 170 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine candidate, and 500 million doses of the vaccine in development by Janssen, a Johnson & Johnson company. The group already has commitments from Serum Institute of India for 200 million doses, with an option for 900 more doses of either the AstraZeneca/Oxford or Novavax vaccine candidates. Vaccines made by Moderna, as well as Pfizer and BioNTech, now with emergency authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration are apparently not part of the Covax agreements.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in October, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline also offered 200 million doses of its candidate vaccine to Covax, but the companies are extending their clinical trials to find a formulation that better protects older age recipients.

“Our research and development efforts have begun to pay off,” says Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI in a GAVI alliance statement. Hatchett adds, “The challenge of delivering the vaccines that have demonstrated success, of completing the development of other promising vaccine candidates to further increase supply, and of ending the acute phase of the pandemic, lies ahead of us.”

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

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