• Gavi Board shows support for continued work on COVAX Facility: a global, coordinated mechanism designed to ensure rapid and equitable access to safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines to as broad a global population as possible

  • The Board also discussed the role Gavi will play in an expansion in cold chain capacity in developing countries to deploy COVID-19 vaccines, as well as potentially diagnostics and treatments

  • New flexibilities and measures put in place to help countries deal with unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on immunisation programmes, as well as revised gender policy to guide Gavi’s programmes

Geneva, 26 June 2020 – The Gavi Board has shown support for a mechanism that could help guarantee rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines on a global scale, following the biannual Board meeting held virtually today.

The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) aims to pool demand and resources toward securing access to future supply of COVID-19 vaccines. All countries are invited to participate in the COVAX Facility. Gavi is continuing to work closely with stakeholders to complete the design of the Facility, including ways to raise the necessary funding. The Board was encouraged by what has been achieved so far, putting together the building blocks of the Facility, and raised points around equity, risk and financing that will be incorporated into the design, as well as governance that will be finalised in the summer.

Within the COVAX Facility, an innovative financing instrument – the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) launched at the Global Vaccine Summit on 4 June – is being used to secure access to timely and sufficient supply of vaccines for developing countries.

“Our absolute priority is to ensure those at risk in the world’s most vulnerable countries don’t miss out on COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Gavi Board. “The Gavi Board made important points on how to take these efforts forward, emphasising the need to ensure access is truly global. That’s why we are working at breakneck speed to make sure the right incentives, financing and safeguards are in place to guarantee vaccines are available worldwide, not just to those with the deepest pockets. This will take an unprecedented global effort, but then these are unprecedented times.”

The Gavi Board, which met virtually during 24-25 June, also discussed the role that Gavi will play in an expansion in cold-chain capacity in developing countries to help them prepare for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine refrigerators and cold stores will be needed to deploy COVID-19 vaccines. This cold chain capacity could also be used to store and deploy COVID-19 diagnostics and treatments, depending on the tools developed. Gavi is already engaging with manufacturers to identify which products may be needed and how manufacturing capacity can be scaled up at speed.

“The world’s attention right now is on the race to find effective COVID-19 vaccines that might help us end this pandemic or at least bring it under control,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Gavi is working hard, through its COVAX AMC, to ensure there will be enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure people in the world’s poorest countries don’t miss out when the vaccines become available. But vaccines do not deliver themselves. Alongside the enormous research and manufacturing effort needed to make the vaccines a reality, we also need an unprecedented logistical effort to ensure the infrastructure is in place to allow these vaccines to reach the most vulnerable communities across the globe.”

There are several variables in the profile of COVID-19 vaccines that could impact how cold chain capacity will need to be developed and expanded, for instance whether it needs to be stored at temperatures of between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, as the majority of current vaccines do, or freezing temperatures reaching minus 80 degrees as is the case for an Ebola vaccine. Gavi will refine plans for cold chain expansion in the coming months as the vaccine product profiles become known.

Further outcomes of the Gavi Board meeting

As well as discussions on COVID-19 vaccines, several other decisions were made during the two-day virtual Board meeting, many of which are designed to mitigate the unprecedented disruption the pandemic is causing to immunisation programmes worldwide. COVID-19 is having a significant impact on an already stretched health workforce, while uptake for immunisation is also impacted due to challenges in accessing health facilities as well as rumours and community mistrust towards immunisation. Nearly half of countries in Africa have partially or entirely suspended outreach activities.

  • The Gavi Board discussed the proposal of several flexibilities and measures to help countries’ health systems respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:
    • Making funding available to cover higher operational costs for preventive and reactive – for example in response to outbreaks – mass vaccination campaigns as countries adapt to the COVID-19 context;
    • Allowing more flexibility in how countries invest their support for health systems, for instance using the funding to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for their health workers;
    • Providing up to US$ 20 million in targeted support up to 31 December 2020 to countries that have transitioned out of Gavi support, where there is an identified risk of reduction in coverage rates of vaccines introduced with Gavi support as well as to strengthen political will; and
    • Advocating for the inclusion of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in recovery planning and requiring countries to explain how CSOs were consulted and will be engaged in implementation. Gavi is also exploring new global and regional partnerships to support recovery, especially in fragile settings.
  • The Gavi Board approved a revised gender policy to guide the Alliance’s programmes, with a goal to identify transformative approaches to overcome gender-related barriers to reach individuals and communities who do not have access to recommended vaccines. During the meeting the Board also showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and made a strong call in support of diversity, equity and respect in all aspects of the Vaccine Alliance’s activities.
  • The Board agreed that the Vaccine Alliance should begin exploring how its Cold Chain Equipment Optimisation Programme (CCEOP), which currently procures vaccine refrigerators, including solar-powered fridges, for Gavi-supported countries, could be leveraged to help bring reliable solar power to health facilities across Africa and Asia, as part of a co-investment model with other donors.
  • The expansion of cold chain capacity in lower-income countries to meet the challenge of COVID-19 also presents an opportunity to boost the cold chain capacity of other vital health commodities, such as oxytocin and insulin, which the Gavi Secretariat will now explore.
  • The Board agreed to proceed with the implementation of revisions to Gavi’s funding approaches, including an equity-focused approach to allocating funding for health systems and lowering unnecessary barriers to new vaccine introductions in favour of more relevant readiness criteria. In addition, the Board approved the integration of cold-chain equipment funding into Gavi’s funding for health systems but noted implementation may be delayed due to efforts to scale-up cold chain in response to the COVID pandemic.

Media Contacts

James Fulker
+41 79 429 5505
+41 22 909 2926

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