COVID-19 vaccination program for the poorest still has $2.6 billion to spend as pandemic recedes

By Jennifer Rigby

LONDON (Reuters) – Several billion dollars left in a program to provide COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s poorest could be diverted to prepare for other pandemics or to support vaccine manufacturing in Africa, officials said. program partners.

The COVAX initiative, led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), still has $2.6 billion in its coffers as the The emergency phase of the pandemic is coming to an end, according to documents seen by Reuters and two sources familiar with the scheme.

The initiative is due to end at the end of this year, although some of its work will continue. As demand for COVID-19 vaccines dwindles, partners are now working on how best to use the remaining money — a significant sum for global health — alongside the donors who originally pledged it.

About $600 million has been disbursed as part of an “emergency” fund in case the pandemic worsens again. The remaining $2 billion went to COVAX after drugmakers agreed to repay vaccine deals struck at the height of the pandemic.

“This money was designed as an emergency instrument, so that we can respond to the twists and turns of the pandemic,” said Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao, Gavi’s resource mobilization manager. “We don’t want the money to sit idle.”

Around $700 million is expected to be used for an ongoing COVID-19 vaccination program in Gavi-supported countries, for 2024 and 2025. This option will be discussed by the Gavi Board this week. Another part of the money will be used for booster shots this year and next.

Saraka-Yao said donors, including wealthy countries like the United States and Germany as well as philanthropic organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, had all been invited if they wanted to collect the rest of the money. money at a meeting in March. None did. Donors and WHO were not immediately available for comment.

A CEPI spokesperson said while no decision has been made on funds, it was “prudent to remain prepared” both in case the COVID-19 situation changes and for future pandemics.

“They [donors] I want to keep the spirit of political intent when the money was given…to help protect the rest of the world,” Saraka-Yao said.

One option is to invest in broader pandemic preparedness initiatives, Gavi said. Another idea that has caught on is to use some of the money to boost vaccine manufacturing in Africa, Saraka-Yao said.

Gavi is offering a financial support system that would help new manufacturers bring products to market competitively, especially for diseases like cholera or yellow fever, where there are shortages of vaccines for diseases that kill every year hundreds of thousands of people in Africa.

Separately, Gavi announced on Monday that its new chief executive, Muhammad Ali Pate, will no longer join the organization as he returns to his home country of Nigeria. Instead, chief executive David Marlow will become interim chief executive following Seth Berkley’s departure in August.

(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby; Editing by Christina Fincher)

Leave a Comment