U.S. rallies support for global vaccine distribution

A health care worker receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a COVAX launch event March 13 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (© UNICEF Ethiopia)
A health care worker receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a COVAX launch event March 13 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (© UNICEF Ethiopia)

Many citizens of developing world nations will receive COVID-19 vaccines thanks to funds being raised by the United States and partner organizations. The recently launched COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility Advance Market Commitment (AMC) aims to raise $2 billion to procure and distribute up to 1.8 billion safe and effective vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

On April 15, the United States and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, launched a virtual event, “One World Protected,” that attracted more than $300 million in pledges from government and private sector partners.

The fund drive will continue over the next two months, culminating in an international leaders’ summit hosted by Japan. Participants also pledged millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX, according to Gavi.

Over 160 nations participate in the COVAX initiative, which works to accelerate broad and equitable access to vaccines for countries most in need during the pandemic.

“People everywhere should have access to rigorously tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in remarks delivered at the outset of the event. “So we call on partners to work alongside Gavi to support urgent vaccine manufacturing, supply, and delivery needs.”

A Palestinian Muslim cleric in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21 receives a shot of the Pfizer vaccine delivered through COVAX. (© Nasser Nasser/AP Images)

The United States contributed $2 billion to Gavi for COVAX in March and has pledged an additional $2 billion through 2022. That’s 40 percent of all contributions to COVAX so far. The U.S. Congress recently approved more than $11 billion to help fight the global pandemic.

The first COVAX-supported international delivery of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Ghana on February 24. Since then, 38 million doses have been shipped to 113 countries across six continents with plans to distribute at least 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.

Hosted by Blinken, U.S. Agency for International Development Acting Administrator Gloria Steele and Gavi Board Chair José Manuel Barroso, the “One World Protected” event convened more than 200 world leaders, private businesses and nongovernmental organizations in support of COVAX AMC.

Blinken told the launch participants that meeting the fundraising target would allow COVAX to vaccinate an additional 10% of people in 92 low- and -middle-income countries by the end of 2021.

“Just think for a moment of all the people whose lives would be impacted by hitting that higher target,” he said.

Blinken also called for increasing global manufacturing of vaccines and for improving their distribution. The international response, he said, must also work to address hunger and other secondary impacts of the pandemic and take steps to prepare for future disease threats.

“The faster we do all this the more lives we save, the quicker we can safely reopen our schools and businesses and the quicker our communities and economies can recover,” he said.