A global initiative to ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines now includes most of the world — but not the U.S., China or Russia.
Why it matters: Assuming one or more vaccines ultimately gain approval, there will be a period of months or even years in which supply lags far behind global demand. The COVAX initiative is an attempt to ensure doses go where they're most needed, rather than simply to countries that can produce or buy them at scale.
How it works: COVAX — led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the Gavi vaccine alliance — is investing in the production of nine vaccines, including candidates from the U.S., Europe and China. It plans to distribute any that are approved to all participating countries.
- The funding will come from wealthier countries and other donors, with poorer countries receiving subsidized access.
A draft plan envisions a first phase of proportional distribution across all countries until about 20% of their populations are vaccinated.
- The guidelines suggest health workers be vaccinated first, followed by the elderly and those with serious health conditions (countries will make their own allocation decisions).
- In a second wave of more widespread distribution, each country’s "COVID threat and vulnerability" will be taken into account.
Where things stand: 65 higher-income economies have now joined the 92 that are eligible for subsidized access. Together, they comprise 64% of the global population.
- A further 35 higher-income countries or territories have said they intend to join.
The other side:...