A nurse prepares a shot of the Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine at a nursing home in Ankara, Turkey

image copyrightReuters

image captionThe Covax programme aims to distribute coronavirus vaccines equitably to countries worldwide

The fast-track development of vaccines against the coronavirus was an extraordinary feat of scientific progress.

Now, as vaccines are being rolled out globally, health experts have a vital message: nobody wins the fight against the pandemic until everyone wins.

In other words, vaccines must be shared fairly among all nations, rich and poor.

Fortunately, there is an ambitious plan to do just that – it’s called Covax.

Here, we explain the basics.

What is Covax?

As the race for vaccinations gathered pace last year, there were fears that richer countries would hoard jabs at the expense of poorer ones.

Covax was a response to those fears – which have already been realised to an extent.

  • World’s poorest must not be ‘trampled’ in vaccine race

It is a global initiative that aims to give all countries equitable access to coronavirus vaccines, regardless of their income.

Launched in April 2020, Covax is led by the World Health Organization (WHO) – a United Nations body – and two vaccine advocacy groups.

Together, they invest donations in the development, purchase and delivery of vaccines to the more than 180 countries that have signed up to Covax.

image copyrightEPA
image captionVarious vaccines against the coronavirus are being rolled out, mainly in countries with bigger economies

Why does Covax matter?

The pandemic has destroyed livelihoods, shut down entire countries, and claimed the lives of more than 2.1 million people worldwide to date.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus is still spreading.

Given this, it is unlikely that life will return to the pre-pandemic normal until the vast majority of the global population is protected against the virus.

Vaccines, health experts say, are the solution, but they must be shared equitably so countries can co-ordinate to end the pandemic together.

This is “the only way to mitigate the public health and economic impact of the pandemic”, the WHO says.

When will countries get vaccines?

As yet, Covax has not distributed a single dose of any vaccine.

The scheme is expected to start distributing Covid-19 vaccines in February, with poor and middle-income countries receiving the lion’s share.

Covax hopes that, by the end of 2021, more than two billion doses of vaccines will have been delivered to countries across the world.

Of those doses, about 1.3 billion will be delivered to the 92 poorer countries involved in the scheme, covering around 20% of their populations.

Health workers, the elderly and the vulnerable are to be first in line.

How much have countries donated?

Participating countries have donated different amounts.

The UK government, for example, has provided $734m (£548m) – one of the largest financial pledges.

By contrast, Russia and the US are among the few countries that have not contributed, though the latter has said it will sign up under President Joe Biden.

So far, Covax has raised $2.4bn, but the scheme says it needs at least another $4.6bn more to meet its global vaccination target for 2021.

More on fair access to vaccines:

media captionThe threat of vaccine nationalism

What vaccine deals has Covax made?

Covax says it has signed deals to buy vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford University, Johnson & Johnson, and Sanofi/GSK.

An agreement to purchase up to 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the latest to be struck last week.

This vaccine has been approved by WHO regulators, paving the for its roll-out in the coming weeks, but others have not.

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