COVAX is providing COVID-19 vaccines to the world

By U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives, Alaina B. Teplitz and British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sarah Hulton

COVID-19 has shown us that no nation can act alone in the face of this global crisis.  As the pandemic continues and new variants emerge, it is critical that the international community works together to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.  COVAX, co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI), and the World Health Organization (WHO), is a global initiative to accelerate the research, development, and equitable global distribution of safe, effective, and high-quality COVID-19 vaccines.   COVAX has already shipped over 152 million vaccines to 137 participants, including nearly 2 million doses to Sri Lanka.  By the end of 2021, COVAX aims to distribute over 2 billion vaccines around the world.  And every single one of these doses will arrive free of charge to 92 lower and middle-income countries like Sri Lanka through the donor funded COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of rapid development and distribution of safe and effective vaccines.  Our governments’ collective significant investments to fund science and biomedical research over the last few decades and our commitment to fund vaccine research at biotech and pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions, ensured that safe and highly effective vaccines were developed and deployed in under one year – a record-breaking feat that has saved countless lives. These safe, effective, and high-quality vaccines are now being distributed to the global community largely in part to COVAX.  G7 leaders in June 2021 committed to the “100 Day Mission” to accelerate the research, development, scaled manufacturing, and distribution of safe and effective vaccines for future outbreaks.

The COVAX AMC, a donor-funded initiative that has received financial support from more than 30 countries, is key to accelerating the distribution of safe and effective vaccines to low and lower-middle income economies.

The United States and the United Kingdom helped galvanize global donations with our own pledges of $2 billion and £548 million, respectively.  That’s why in April, the United States was proud to co-host with Gavi the “One World Protected” virtual event which raised $386 million for the COVAX AMC.  Collectively, donors have committed more than $9.6 billion in funding to support the equitable global distribution of safe and effective vaccines through the COVAX AMC.

This extraordinary combination of international cooperation, generosity, and medical innovation is ensuring that countries that can’t afford to purchase life-saving vaccines will still be able to vaccinate their citizens.  Because we understand that no one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe from COVID-19.

8.4 million vaccine doses have been committed to Sri Lanka through the COVAX AMC.  An initial consignment of 264,000 doses arrived in Sri Lanka in March.  After the United States pledged to donate 80 million vaccines from its own supply to the rest of the world, an additional 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Colombo on July 16.  And there’s more to come.

In June 2021, while hosting the G7 Summit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would contribute an additional 100 million surplus doses of vaccines to the world’s poorest countries within twelve months, including 5 million by the end of September 2021.  The UK’s Prime Minister said: “We are now in a position to share some of our surplus doses with those who need them.  In doing so we will take a massive step towards beating this pandemic for good.”  Collectively, G7+ leaders committed to donate 1 billion doses.

The United States will provide 500 million additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to Gavi for distribution by COVAX to the 92 low- and lower-middle income AMC countries and economies and the African Union by June 2022, with 200 million doses scheduled for delivery by the end of 2021.  “Strong American leadership is essential to ending this pandemic,” said U.S. President Joe Biden.  “The United States will be the world’s arsenal of vaccines in our shared fight against this virus.”  And, as President Biden made clear, “We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic.  That’s it. Period.”

In the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, a multilateral effort to ensure equitable access to vaccines is critical.  COVAX, the largest vaccine procurement and distribution operation in history, aims to do just that.  COVAX represents the best of us.  Based on the principles of equity, transparency, and common humanity, it’s a global solution to a global challenge.  The success of this initiative, with the support of the United Kingdom, the United States, and other global leaders, is a vital component of the global effort to end the pandemic and save millions of lives around the world.