The COVAX Program: "No one is safe until everyone is safe"

25 September, 2020

What is COVAX program?

  • It is a WHO-supported program to provide poorer countries with equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines
  • It is supporting nine manufacturers to develop and manufacture COVID-19 vaccine
  • The 156 nations now committed to COVAX represent about two-thirds of the world’s population

Main principles

  • COVAX is a WHO plan in conjunction with CEPI* and GAVI** to support the development and equitable distribution of two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine before the end of 2021.
  • The pooled funding will allow poorer countries to access COVID-19 vaccines they would otherwise have been unlikely to afford.

Supporting vaccine development and manufacture

  • CEPI* is leading COVAX research and development and aims to have at least three safe and effective vaccines available for participating countries
  • Nine candidates, incorporating a range of technologies and scientific approaches, are currently being supported. These include: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Moderna, University of Queensland/CSL and Clover/GSK. This spreads the risk across vaccine candidates in case some are unsuccessful
  • Some of the funding is for vaccine development and some to create a manufacturing capability


  • The program will use funding from 64 higher-income countries to secure vaccine to be shared with 92 lower- and lower-middle-income countries
  • Countries were asked to make a binding commitment to participate by 18 September 2020, and to provide funds by early October. These funds will allow COVAX to finalise advance purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturers
  • There will be a global coordinated rollout by the WHO from Geneva

Program components: The “Facility” and the “AMC”

COVAX has two major parts: The “Facility” is a purchasing pool for higher-income countries, and the “Advance Market Commitment” (AMC):

  • Countries that join the “Facility” get access to any successful vaccines in COVAX’s portfolio
  • The AMC is a fund-raising effort for poorer countries that directs development aid to low- and middle-income countries that may not have been able to afford coronavirus vaccine. So far, the AMC has commitments for USD $700 million of the $2 billion required by the end of 2020. The European Union (EU) has committed USD$465 million in guarantees.

Despite high-income countries having made large bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers, COVAX believes it can secure over two billion doses in 2021.

Who should get the vaccine first?

The idea is to rapidly vaccinate health-care workers, the elderly, and others at high risk in all countries. On average, this comprises about 20% of a country’s population.

Opting out and bilateral agreements

  • The Russia, US and China are not participating in COVAX
  • Some countries and regions (including Australia, Canada, US, Japan, and the EU) have bilateral agreements with vaccine manufacturers and all but the US have joined COVAX. This is seen to give them the greatest number of vaccine options
  • France is providing funds but will not take supplies from COVAX. France will obtain vaccine via the European Joint Procurement program which has deals with AstraZeneca, and is in talks with Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Moderna, and CureVac

*CEPI: The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations: a foundation that takes donations from public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations, to finance independent research projects to develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.

**GAVI: Vaccine Alliance of Governments and Organisations: set up by the Gates Foundation in 1999, with an aim to accelerate access of developing countries to vaccines and support research into health solutions for these countries that are effective, affordable and sustainable.


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