Covax: What is the vaccine supply scheme and is it working?

Covax delivers 504,000 Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs to the Ivory Coast - the second country in the world after Ghana to receive vaccines from the Covax scheme Credit: AP

By Will Tullis, ITV News

In the UK, 25,735,472 people have received their first Covid jab. This week, the headlines have been dominated by news of vaccine shortages in the UK and the EU

But away from domestic vaccine supply concerns, the UK and EU have both committed to help poorer countries with vaccine supply and distribution, under the Covax scheme.

“No one is safe until everyone is safe”: What is the Covax scheme?

Covax is an international vaccine supply scheme involving more than two thirds of the nations of the world. 

The aim of Covax is to help poorer countries get more doses of the vaccine. Richer countries have been able to buy more vaccine doses than poorer countries. 

Dr. Maxamed Maxamuud Fuje received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, provided by Covax, in a ceremony to mark Somalia's jab rollout on Tuesday Credit: AP

In less than a year, Covax aims to supply more than two billion doses to people in 190 countries.

Covax was set up as a way richer countries could help poorer countries by: 

  • Providing financial assistance for poorer countries to buy and distribute more vaccine doses

  • Donating excess vaccine doses to poorer countries

The Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) who run Covax alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) say that competition between governments to vaccinate their own citizens first is bad for vaccine supply and global health because “no one is safe until everyone is safe”.

How much will the UK and the G7 give to Covax?

The UK has given £548m to Covax. At a G7 meeting last month, Boris Johnson pledged to donate most of the UK’s surplus vaccine supplies to poorer countries

At the same meeting, G7 leaders increased their contributions to Covax to £5.3bn in total.

Joe Biden pledged $4bn to Covax, and Germany pledged $1.2bn. The EU increased their Covax contribution from 500m euros to 1bn euros.

Boris Johnson said: “There is no point in us vaccinating our individual populations - we've got to make sure the whole world is vaccinated because this is a global pandemic and it's no use one country being far ahead of another, we've got to move together.”

Who’s giving the jabs?

Covax was set up in April 2020 and is led by WHO, alongside the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi). 

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also pledged funds to Covax. Credit: PA

Gavi called Covax “the only truly global solution” to the pandemic. More than two-thirds of the world is involved in Covax, with 190 countries in the scheme.  

Gavi said: “[Covax] is the only effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to Covid-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth.”

Some of the countries donating to Covax include: the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Colombia, Bhutan, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Singapore, Switzerland, as well as the EU.

Philanthropists - including the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation - have also pledged funds to the Covax scheme.

Canada has also taken supply from Covax, despite being a richer country. The Canadian government said: “Covax's objective is to provide vaccines for 20% of the populations of all member states, both self-financing and those who will receive donations.”

Singapore and New Zealand also requested Covax supplies.

Who’s getting the jabs?

Pakistan will get the most Covax jabs - 14,640,000 doses. Covax jab allocation depends on factors including population size, wealth of the country, and how many in that country have already been vaccinated. 

Some of the countries allocated Covax jabs include:

  • Pakistan (14,640,000 jabs)

  • Indonesia (11,704,800 jabs)

  • Nigeria (13,656,000 jabs)

  • Bangladesh (10,908,000 jabs) 

  • Brazil (9,122,400 jabs)

  • Democratic Republic of Congo (5,928,000 jabs)

  • Mexico (5,532,000 jabs)

  • Ethiopia (4,584,000 jabs)  

  • Afghanistan (2,580,000 jabs)

  • North Korea (1,704,000 jabs) 

Pakistan - which has been allocated over 14m jabs from Covax - has started vaccinating people who are 60 years old or above Credit: AP

How’s progress?

So how many Covax jabs have been delivered? Some of the countries Covax has delivered jabs to include:

  • Indonesia (1,113,600 delivered)

  • Nigeria (3,940,000 delivered)

  • Angola (624,000 delivered)

  • Ghana (600,000 delivered)

  • Côte d'Ivoire (504,000 delivered)

  • Afghanistan (468,000 delivered)

  • Cambodia (324,000 delivered)

  • Ecuador (84,000 delivered)

  • West Bank and Gaza (61,440 delivered)

  • Mongolia (14,400 delivered)

Which vaccines is Covax using? 

Covax uses the Pfizer vaccine and Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. Covax is also in discussions with Moderna to use their vaccine.

Covax has agreements in place for 1.2m Pfizer doses as well as 340m Oxford/AstraZeneca doses. 

US vaccine producer Novavax has signed a deal to provide 1.1bn vaccine doses to Covax.

The WHO said Covax is unaffected by news that some countries have suspended use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca over concerns their vaccine causes blood clots. The European Medicines Agency has now said the vaccine is "safe and effective" and there's no link between the jab and blood clots.

Covax delivered 600,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to Ghana last month. These jabs were produced in India. 

Is Covax working?

In January, WHO board member Dr Clemens Martin Auer -  who is also the co-chair of the EU’s vaccine procurement group’s board - said Covax had been slow to secure vaccine deals and deliver doses to countries.

But as of today, Covax has delivered 30m vaccine doses to more than 50 countries. 

Developed countries have secured 70% of vaccines that would be available in 2021, according to The Lancet.

The UK, US, EU, Canada, Australia, and Japan have already secured 3bn vaccine doses, according to anti-poverty group One Campaign. This is 1.2bn more doses than they need to give their populations.

Gavi said it expects as many as 1.8bn doses to be available to the 92 middle and lower income countries eligible for Covax jabs. This corresponds to about 28% vaccine coverage of these countries. 

But Gavi has also acknowledged that the fast-changing nature of vaccine supply means they will regularly update this forecast.