Moderna Signs Landmark Agreement With COVAX For 500 Million mRNA Vaccine Doses – WHO Asks G7 For US$20 Billion In COVID Finance
Gavi will receive 500 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to help expand vaccine coverage around the world

Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, has secured half a billion doses of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine for the COVAX global vaccine facility in a landmark agreement that will deepen vaccination coverage in poor countries around the world, Gavi said on Monday.

Meanwhile, Sweden announced that it will donate one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the global COVAX facility to help fill an urgent shortfall of 20 million doses as the world’s vaccine powerhouse, the Serum Institute of India, has diverted most of its vaccine supply to fend off a devastating outbreak in the country. The announcement came as WHO’s Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference that COVAX and related medicines access initiatives face an immediate funding gap of US$19 billion, along with “further needs” of US $35-$US40 billion over the coming year. 

“We will only solve the vaccine crisis with the leadership of G7 countries,” Tedros said, speaking at a WHO press conference that featured an appeal by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to rich countries to immediately donate more excess vaccines.

Brown, now the UN Envoy for Global Eradication, also joined WHO in an appeal to G7 nations to dedicate some US$ 20 billion a year from their combined resources to a more robust pipeline of COVID vaccines and medicines – at an upcoming G7 meeting 11 June.

“Mass vaccination is not just an epidemiological and ethical imperative. It’s an economic imperative,” stressed Brown. “But if the cost of vaccines is in billions the overall savings is in trillions of additional economic output, made possible when trade resumes in a COVID free world.”

“In the next few months we do not expect the Serum Institute of India to be able to supply the kind of [vaccine] volumes that were originally predicted. And so it would be really helpful to get [additional] doses from other countries,” said WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan, speaking at the briefing.

Senior WHO advisor Bruce Aylward, meanwhile, said that the immediate donation of 20 million doses is needed to ensure that vulnerable populations who have already received their first dose would get a second jab as soon as possible.

Moderna Will Supply COVAX With 34 Million Doses In 2021 and 466 Million In 2022

Moderna’s latest agreement will allow COVAX to receive 34 million doses in the fourth quarter of 2021 and 466 million doses in 2022, with an option to access a vaccine jab that is adapted to emerging variants, said Gavi in its press release. 

The announcement comes a week after Moderna pledged to expand its production capacity to three billion doses by 2022 and received the WHO’s stamp of approval – making it the fifth vaccine to be approved by the global health body to date. 

“This is an important milestone as we work to ensure that people around the world have access to our COVID-19 vaccine,” said Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel in a press release.

“We recognize that many countries have limited resources to access COVID-19 vaccines. We support COVAX’s mission to ensure broad, affordable and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and we remain committed to doing everything that we can to ending this ongoing pandemic with our mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.”

“Expanding and having a diverse portfolio has always been a core goal for COVAX, and to remain adaptable in the face of this continually evolving pandemic – including the rising threat posed by new variants,” added Gavi CEO Seth Berkley in a press release. “This agreement is a further step in that direction.”

Moderna’s latest agreement represents the largest commitment of mRNA vaccines to COVAX yet, given that Pfizer/BioNTech, another mRNA vaccine frontrunner, has committed a mere 40 million doses to the global vaccine facility. 

Unlike the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech which needs to be stored at temperatures as cold as -60ºC, Moderna’s vaccine can be stored in a standard fridge at 2-8 °C for one month, and potentially for up to three months, said Moderna’s CEO last week; those looser storage requirements for Moderna’s vaccine are likely to ease its distribution to low- and middle-income countries that lack the cold-chain infrastructure to store vaccines at sub-zero temperatures. 

Sweden’s Vaccine Donation Hailed as ‘Superb’ Gesture by Tedros 
WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Per Olsson Fridh, Sweden’s Minister for Development Cooperation, met at WHO’s headquarters on Monday.

Meanwhile, WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed Sweden’s donation of one million vaccine doses to COVAX as a “superb gesture” and urged the rest of the world to follow suit. So far, only a handful of countries have donated doses to COVAX, including New Zealand and France, which donated 13 million and 1.6 million doses to the global vaccine facility, respectively.

“Sweden’s announcement that it will share 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with COVAX is a superb gesture that must be replicated urgently, and repeatedly, by governments around the world to accelerate the equitable rollout of vaccines globally,” said Dr Tedros in a press release Monday, shortly after his meeting with Per Olsson Fridh, Sweden’s Minister for Development Cooperation.

“Such support will ensure that people in vulnerable countries, especially, in Africa, will be able to receive their second doses through the COVAX initiative,” he added.

Gordon Brown Makes US$30 Billion Year Pitch To G7 For COVID Medicines & Vaccine Finance
Gordon Brown UN Envoy for Eradication at WHO press briefing 3 May 2021

Meanwhile, in the leadup to the next G-7 meeting on 11 June, Brown said that he was joining WHO in an appeal to the Group of 7 most industrialized nations to finance some US$ 30 billion in mass vaccination, affordable tests and treatments for lower- and middle-income countries.

“The bill for mass vaccinating the world and ensuring access also to tests and treatments is affordable: a total of around US$30billions a year,” he asserted. “If spread across the richest countries – its just 25 cents a week per citizen – and it is money we cannot afford not to spend. ”

“In total over 2 years we need to raise an estimated US$60 billion, which is not only to cover vaccines, research, production and distribution to 92 lower income countries, but help pay for vital medical supplies including diagnostics and medical oxygen currently and shamefully in short supply in India and elsewhere.

“Based on ability to pay – a formula that takes into account national income, current wealth and benefits from the resumption of trade, America would pay 27% of the costs Europe 23%, the UK 5%, Japan 6%, Korea Canada and Australia 2% (each), he said,” noting that those G7 contributions alone would cover about 67% of the US$ 30 billion needed – or about US$ 20 billion.

” I say to the G7, the forum that on June 11, six weeks from now, brings together the world’s seven richest countries: you have the power and the ability to pay for nearly two thirds (of the total costs)  and secure a historic breakthrough by agreeing an equitable burden sharing formula for global health provision.”

He said the proposed measures would also include expansion of international finance for grants for low income countries, and creation of a guarantee-based finance facility for middle income countries.

“I say to the G20: with your leadership, we can cover over 80% of the costs, and you have the means to urgently donate vaccine doses to cover the gap in supply.

“I say to the richest 30 countries in the world: you can cover almost 90% of the costs. And the same burden-sharing formula can also be applied – so that instead of the familiar pandemic cycle of ‘panic now’ and neglect later, the world invests now now, when there is a shortfall, and for the future in pandemic preparedness…to ensure that even if future outbreaks happen pandemics become preventable.”

Image Credits: Gavi , WHO .

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