Unicef to lead global supply of COVID-19 vaccine

Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken 10 April 2020.
Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken 10 April 2020.Reuters
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In what could possibly be the world’s largest and fastest ever procurement and supply of vaccines, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has said that it will lead efforts for COVID-19 vaccine supply for 92 low and lower middle-income countries.

These efforts will be part of the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (Covax Facility) plans led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Vaccine purchases for these countries will be supported by the mechanism through the Gavi Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines (Gavi Covax AMC) as well as a buffer stockpile for humanitarian emergencies, Unicef said.

In addition, the UN agency will also serve as the procurement coordinator to support procurement by 80 higher-income economies, which have expressed their intent to participate in the Covax Facility and would finance the vaccines from their own public finance budgets.

Unicef will undertake these efforts in close collaboration with the WHO, Gavi, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners.

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The Covax Facility is open to all countries to ensure that no country is left without access to a future COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is an all-hands on deck partnership between governments, manufacturers and multilateral partners to continue the high stakes fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Henrietta Fore, Unicef Executive Director, said in a statement.

“In our collective pursuit of a vaccine, Unicef is leveraging its unique strengths in vaccine supply to make sure that all countries have safe, fast and equitable access to the initial doses when they are available,” the statement read.

Unicef is the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, procuring more than two billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunisation and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.

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In response to an expression of interest that Unicef issued in June on behalf of the Covax Facility, 28 manufacturers with production facilities in 10 countries shared their annual production plans for COVID-19 vaccines through 2023.

According to the timelines indicated by the manufacturers, the span from development to production could be one of the fastest scientific and manufacturing leaps in history, the organisation said.

A Unicef market assessment, developed by compiling information submitted by the vaccine manufacturers along with publicly available data, revealed that manufacturers are willing to collectively produce unprecedented quantities of vaccines over the coming one to two years.

However, manufacturers signalled that investments to support such large-scale production of doses would be highly dependent on, among other things, whether clinical trials are successful, advance purchase agreements are put in place, funding is confirmed, and regulatory and registration pathways are streamlined.

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