COVAX Delivers One Billionth COVID-19 Vaccine Dose – But 41% of World Remains Unvaccinated
On 24 February 2021, a plane carrying the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by COVAX landed in Ghana.

Rwanda became the recipient of the one-billionth COVID-19 vaccine delivered by COVAX, the global platform set up to ensure equitable access to the vaccines,announced last Friday.

After numerous supply problems – most seriously when its key supplier, the Serum Insitute of India, was banned from exporting its vaccines by the Indian government – COVAX was forced to slash its 2021 delivery target from two billion to 930 million doses.

However, since mid-December, COVAX delivery has escalated substantially, and 100 million vaccine doses were delivered in the last week of December alone.

“COVAX is leading the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, with deliveries to 144 countries to date,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) over the weekend.

“But the work that has gone into this milestone is only a reminder of the work that remains. As of 13 January 2022, out of 194 Member States, 36 WHO Member States have vaccinated less than 10% of their population, and 88 less than 40%,” said the WHO.

“COVAX’s ambition was compromised by hoarding or stockpiling in rich countries, catastrophic outbreaks leading to borders and supply being locked. And a lack of sharing of licenses, technology and know-how by pharmaceutical companies meant manufacturing capacity went unused.”

Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi – the vaccine alliance that manages COVAX – said he was “proud that nearly 90% of the first billion doses COVAX has delivered have been fully-funded doses sent to the low and lower-middle countries supported by the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC)”.


This had been made possible thanks to donations of over $10 billion to COVAX, added Berkley.

“Inequality in vaccination is enormous with 41% of the world not yet vaccinated with even one dose,” added Berkley. “In 2022, Gavi will be fundraising to make sure lower-income countries are able to access variant-adapted vaccines, boosters or additional doses as needed. COVAX will be focusing on supporting lower-income countries’ vaccination objectives – that means also raising money to ensure tailored support for preparedness and delivery, particularly for the highest-risk countries, to increase their ability to absorb the doses delivered as rapidly as possible.”   

Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which is a COVAX partner, also welcomed the milestone, but warned that while supply constraints had eased, “booster programs and the potential production of Omicron-specific vaccines may yet create pressure on supply”.  

Meanwhile, Eva Kadilli, director of UNICEF’s supply division, which carries out the COVAX deliveries, also welcomed the billionth delivery and thanked her teams throughout the world.






Image Credits: WHO, UNICEF.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.