Nigeria: 16 million AstraZeneca vaccines under the Covax system

Par ediallo - 16 February, 2021 - 16:46

Monday's approval of AstraZeneca's vaccine by the WHO will finally allow the international Covax system to start fulfilling its role: fighting against the inequity of vaccination campaigns by providing their first doses to disadvantaged countries. Nigeria is one of the countries that will receive the largest number of these vaccines during the first half of the year.

The AstraZeneca vaccine represents the bulk of the 337.2 million doses of vaccine that the Covax scheme - founded by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) - intends to distribute in the first half of this year.

The Covax system aims to provide vaccines this year against Covid-19 to 20% of the population of nearly 200 participating countries and territories, but more importantly, it includes a financing mechanism that allows 92 low- and middle-income economies to have access to the precious doses.

This central mechanism for global access to Covid-19 vaccination was launched in June 2020 by Gavi. It builds on mechanisms that have enabled universal and equitable access to pneumococcal and Ebola vaccines.

By guaranteeing the purchase of a certain volume of vaccines even before they are licensed, and by offering Advance Market Commitments (AMCs), the Covax mechanism aims to encourage pharmaceutical companies to invest in their production capacity, to ensure that manufacturing is accelerated before vaccines are approved, not afterwards.

Unicef (United Nations Children's Fund), which is at the head of UN vaccine logistics, is the armed wing of the Covax strategy in the field and is preparing to transport hundreds of tonnes of vaccines every month. Agreements have so far been signed with several laboratories for a total of more than two billion doses.

Priority doses

The WHO also has the right of first refusal - it is offered the doses as a priority - on the one billion additional doses that should be produced by these laboratories in 2021.

It hopes to distribute 337.2 million units in 145 countries and territories during the first half of the year, including 240 million of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India and another 96 million of the same vaccine produced in South Korea. The aim is to vaccinate the most vulnerable, particularly healthcare workers.

The countries that will receive the largest number of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine during this six-month period are: India (97.2 million), Pakistan (17.2 million), Nigeria (16 million), Indonesia (13.7 million), Bangladesh (12.8 million) and Brazil (10.7 million).

North Korea is also on the list, and is due to receive nearly two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the IIC. A small number of rich countries are also on the list, including South Korea, Canada, Andorra, Monaco, New Zealand, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

As for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, validated by the WHO at the end of December, only 17 countries will be able to benefit from it in the first quarter, the best supplied being Colombia, Peru, Ukraine, the Philippines, South Africa and South Korea, which will each receive 117,000 doses.

Additional volumes of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are expected to be available in the second quarter and beyond.

Vaccine deliveries will depend on several factors, such as the readiness of countries, but the success of this massive project will also depend on the funds received.

The Covax initiative has so far mobilized $6 billion in pledges, but will need at least $2 billion by 2021 to procure and deliver the doses. In addition, $800 million will be needed for research and development.

Africanews with AFP