Australia to promote COVID-19 vaccine equity for developing countries

Vaccination administered by health worker.

Australia will provide $80 million to the COVAX Facility Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC) to improve access to safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccines for 92 countries in our region and around the world.

Countries eligible for vaccines from the COVAX AMC in the Pacific include Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Southeast Asian eligible countries are Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam. In joining this unique collaboration, Australia will help to make sure that all countries have an opportunity to get access to a safe vaccine, not just those that can afford to purchase or manufacture one themselves. In making this investment, Australia joins AMC donors such as United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Norway and New Zealand.

he COVAX AMC is part of the wider COVAX Facility set up by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization. The COVAX Facility will enable rapid and equitable access to vaccines for countries by pooling demand and purchasing power.

Eighty higher-income countries, including Australia, have submitted Expressions of Interest to participate in the COVAX Facility to gain access to vaccines for their domestic populations. These countries would finance their allocation of vaccines from their own public finance budgets.

Together with the 92 countries supported by the COVAX AMC, this group of 172 countries represents more than 70% of the world’s population. During the first phase, the COVAX Facility aims to secure 2 billion doses, enabling vaccination of 20% of country populations, initially targeting health care workers and vulnerable groups. By adopting this strategy the COVAX Facility hopes to end the acute phase of the pandemic by 2021.

Further doses will then be made available based on country need, vulnerability and COVID-19 threat. The COVAX Facility will also maintain a buffer of doses for emergency and humanitarian use, including dealing with severe outbreaks before they spiral out of control.

CEPI is a global partnership launched in 2017 to develop vaccines against emerging infectious disease threats. CEPI is leading the COVAX Facility’s research and development work, which aims to develop at least three safe and effective vaccines for countries participating in the COVAX Facility.

The COVAX Facility will draw on existing CEPI’s agreements with the developers and manufacturers of nine potential vaccine candidates. Negotiations are already underway with a number of additional manufacturers not receiving R&D support from CEPI to procure their vaccines if they are successful.

Australia has long-standing investments in international medical research and development, in recognition of the importance of pandemic preparedness, including to CEPI. Funding from the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security has supported CEPI’s development pipeline since 2018, and provided an extra injection of $7.5 million of funding announced earlier this year. This is because the health security of our region requires us to work together. Australia is investing in the COVAX Facility because our region’s recovery needs everyone to be safe from COVID-19.