Geneva, 23 April 2021 – Today saw France become the first country to donate doses of COVID-19 vaccines from its domestic supply to COVAX, with an initial commitment of 500,000 doses. This new pledge by President Emmanuel Macron allows COVAX to start a new chapter – where, in addition to doses secured through deals with manufacturers, high-income economies can provide doses directly to the global vaccine equity mechanism.
This initial donation will be provided through COVAX, with a first batch of 105,500 doses for April. The initial shipment will be allocated through the COVAX Facility to Mauritania. This pilot shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine is part of a commitment of 500,000 doses from multiple manufacturers planned by mid-June, with a goal to provide at least 5% of all doses acquired by France to COVAX over the course of 2021. These doses have been purchased by France and are being provided free of charge to the COVAX Facility, to be distributed to lower-income economies in line with the equitable allocation mechanism that underpins COVAX. This donation – the first of its kind – will be an example to be followed by Team Europe more broadly.
This pledge follows on from a call by President Macron for high-income countries to provide a proportion of their doses to the 92 lower-income economies eligible for support under the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (Gavi COVAX AMC). The announcement came on the first anniversary of the launch of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, the global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable allocation and distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
Commenting on this announcement, President Macron said: “Our goal, with these donations, is to allow all countries, especially in Africa, to vaccinate the populations who need it most urgently, beginning with healthcare professionals.”
The donation follows the publication by COVAX in December of its Principles for Dose-Sharing, which provide a framework for higher-income economies to make additional volumes, secured via their own bilateral deals, available through the Facility primarily to Gavi COVAX AMC-eligible economies, on an equitable basis. This new dose donation agreement has been designed with “Team Europe”, in coordination with France, the European Commission, Norway and European partners. The Government of Canada provided support to design and operationalise the COVAX dose sharing mechanism, to ensure doses can be welcomed by other countries. UNICEF will provide contracting, insurance and delivery of donated doses to the receiving countries.
Gavi CEO Dr Seth Berkley added: “From the beginning, France has been one of the driving forces behind the ACT Accelerator and COVAX – and President Macron has been a leading voice in calling for vaccine equity and support for dose-sharing. This pledge is historic because it opens up another pathway – in addition to helping ensure a fully-funded Gavi COVAX AMC by which wealthier countries can help drive vaccine equity. We welcome continued cooperation with France and thank President Macron for his contribution to global health security.”
The announcement comes alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s commitment last week that New Zealand would be transferring over 1.6 million doses acquired through COVAX to lower-income economies. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez added his country’s support for dose donations this week with a pledge to provide a sizeable number of COVID-19 vaccine doses to COVAX. Canada, Norway, the UK and other countries have also expressed a willingness to contribute doses. Dose donations are critical to further accelerate the impact of the Gavi COVAX AMC, a mechanism which channels donors’ financial contributions to secure billions of doses for lower-income countries. Gavi has launched a campaign to raise US$ 2 billion by June to secure additional doses for up to 30% of the population in 92 lower-income economies around the world.
“These new donations to COVAX will save more lives and allow us to move faster to put an end to the acute phase of the pandemic,” Dr Mohamed Nedhirou Hamed, Minister of Health of Mauritania added. “We hope that France has opened the door to other such donations by high-income economies in future.”
“This welcome initiative will help accelerate global, equitable and timely access to vaccines from across our industry for those most in need, regardless of income-level. It is only through global collaboration that we can collectively tackle this public health emergency," Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, stressed. “We will continue to do everything it takes, working with our COVAX partners and governments, to protect the most vulnerable communities around the world.”
The first COVAX vaccines were provided in mid-January for India where local regulatory approval was obtained from their functional regulatory agency; international shipments of COVAX vaccines began in February, with over 600,000 vaccines arriving in Ghana on 24 February and several more countries receiving shipments that same week; on 1 March, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana were the first African countries to begin administering vaccines shipped and delivered by COVAX, and the first of what is the largest and most rapid global deployment of vaccines ever. Since then, over 40 million doses have been provided to over 100 economies. While COVAX continues to raise funds to secure additional volumes of vaccines with manufacturers, this dose-sharing pledge allows COVAX to go even further.
In addition to dose-sharing, COVAX’s goal is to finance and secure up to 1.8 billion vaccines to lower-income economies in 2021 via the COVAX AMC, funding permitting, and to further support them by unlocking additional funding from multilateral development banks. This will enable lower-income economies to lift levels of protection across their populations and move further towards global equity in access to COVID-19 vaccines.