Why we support COVAX: Mastercard

Mastercard, a long-standing partner of Gavi, recently committed US$ 28 million to the Gavi COVAX AMC, to ensure vaccines are accessible to those that needed them the most, no matter where they live. Vaccines Work spoke to Michael Froman to learn why this is a priority and why the private sector needs to be involved in the COVID-19 response.

Gavi/2021/Benedikt v.Loebell
Gavi/2021/Benedikt v.Loebell


1. Why is enhancing access to vaccines important to Mastercard?

We may not be a healthcare company, but we do know our company thrives when economies thrive and our business is healthier when people are healthy. 

The dual economic and health implications of this pandemic are something no company or indeed government can ignore. We committed early on, initially through the creation of the Therapeutics Accelerator with the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust, to apply the strength of our assets as a company – funding, technology, data insights, people – to support those in need today as well as create building blocks for a more inclusive, sustainable society and economy long term.

“Equitable distribution of vaccines is critical for the world to emerge from this pandemic, and it will take a collective response by the public and private sector” – Michael Froman, Vice Chairman and President of Strategic Growth, Mastercard

Equitable access to vaccines and long-term health services is something we were working on with Gavi before COVID-19, with the understanding that we need to work across the public, private and non-profit sectors to solve the world’s biggest challenges.

2. Why did Mastercard choose to support the Gavi COVAX AMC? 

Equitable distribution of vaccines is critical for the world to emerge from this pandemic. It will take a collective response by public and private sectors to reach scale and we were eager to do our small part.

Gavi understands how to unite across sectors and borders to drive action, which is critical in a crisis. The Gavi COVAX AMC is the way we can all come together to tackle the issue of vaccine equity with transparency and at speed. We were glad to support this effort and collaborate on how to advance access to health services more broadly.

3. How else is Mastercard partnering with Gavi to ensure vaccines are accessible and administered effectively? 

Before the pandemic took hold, we were working with Gavi on Mastercard Wellness Pass, a digital platform that digitizes vaccination records for children’s vaccines and access to health services. This work is still critical, and we cannot lose sight of that.

However, we’ve been able to apply this work to bring efficiency to COVID-19 vaccine deployment in remote, and even offline, communities. This type of innovation can help health workers keep records securely, it allows governments to monitor demand, and can help ensure people are contacted for follow up appointments.

4. Why was it critical to develop this solution and what impact will the Wellness Pass have on communities across the world? 

At Mastercard we are focused on driving an inclusive digital economy – one that works for even the most remote, marginalised communities. This year has underscored, more than ever, how important digital inclusion is in helping people to reach their potential. 

By applying our decade-long experience in financial inclusion we have been able to look at ways of digitising access to services more broadly, whether that’s healthcare, education, farming or commerce.

The challenges with getting populations vaccinated don’t just stop when supplies arrive. It’s important for individuals to have access to a safe and secure digital identity that enables them to receive much needed healthcare services including getting the treatments they need. It’s also important that NGOs on the ground and health providers are able to keep track of when and where doses are required and to support all communities regardless of their location. At its core, Mastercard is a trusted technology network, with a track record of building digital capabilities that serve populations in the remotest areas, so it made sense for us to collaborate with Gavi on Wellness Pass.

5. What more can we all do to ensure vaccines reach those that need them the most?

It is encouraging to see that higher-income nations have started to share their excess vaccines with those that need them most by donating through COVAX and by mobilising substantial resources to buy vaccines as they are produced. But more needs to be done so that the lower-income nations around the world will also have enough vaccines for their citizens so we can all get back to our lives. It would be a serious mistake to neglect the needs of lower-income countries.

The independent Mastercard Foundation also just recently announced a US$ 1.3 billion commitment with the African CDC to support vaccinations for 50 million people across the continent, to strengthen the healthcare supply chain and infrastructure to ensure delivery of vaccines and to improve lives and livelihoods. We’re incredibly proud of the steps they are taking.

However, even with all this support we still risk driving inequitable recovery; as some countries start to see a path out of this crisis we need to continue to motivate and mobilise the resources of global businesses to support other challenges like vaccine hesitancy, hunger pandemics, safe travel and much more. That’s how together we can create a path to inclusive economic growth across the globe, and we can begin to put the pandemic behind us.