Health and Healthcare Systems

Public-private alliance drives historic vaccination programme

An advocacy poster is seen as a health worker waits to receive the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine under the COVAX scheme against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya March 5, 2021. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi - RC215M9QSJ55

Healthcare worker in Kenya waits to receive the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine under the COVAX scheme. Image: REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi.

Pascal Soriot
Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca
Richard Hatchett
Chief Executive Officer, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI)
Seth Berkley
Chief Executive Officer, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
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  • The largest global vaccination programme in history is underway to protect against COVID-19.
  • The COVAX initiative brings together the public and private sectors to ensure everyone, regardless of wealth, has access to a safe and effective vaccine.
  • 190 countries have signed-up to support its mission to protect the world's most vulnerable.

Over the past fortnight, tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine have been landing at airports around the world through the multilateral COVAX initiative.

Shipments have arrived in over 30 countries around the world to date, including: Ghana, Angola, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Philippines and Cambodia. Dozens more economies, with a majority of low and middle-income countries, are due to receive supply in the coming weeks, representing momentous progress towards broad and equitable access to the vaccine.

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For every single one of the partners in COVAX – CEPI, Gavi, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and many more – it is a moment of great pride, and one made possible only by an unprecedented degree of collaboration between the public and private sectors. Challenges have been unlocked together and best practices shared across the organizations to enable process at pace.

When COVAX was conceived last year, its leaders didn’t know how many governments would commit. In the end, 190 countries came together to sign up to its vision, supported by a commitment from industry leaders at AstraZeneca, Serum Institute of India, and many more.

Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, agrees that global, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, “Is only possible when the public and private sectors work together”. There is a long way to go, but as he makes clear, we are now seeing, “The beginning of COVAX’s effort to end the acute phase of the pandemic”.

The financial and logistical challenges to roll out an accessible vaccine at speed and immense scale are vast. But the simple truth is that no one is safe until everyone is safe. A global pandemic requires a global vaccine.


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For Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca – whose vaccine is being made available at no profit during the pandemic and represents the bulk of volume to COVAX in its initial phase – it is about ensuring that as many people as possible, “Irrespective of their country’s income level will soon be protected against this deadly virus”. It may seem idealistic, but it is a fundamentally humanitarian ideal and one that against all odds is fast becoming a reality.

The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine is set to reach over 140 countries through COVAX during the first half of 2021, either directly from AstraZeneca or through a licensing agreement with the Serum Institute of India. These shipments will ramp up over the coming weeks as other COVID-19 vaccines are also rolled-out to the world’s most vulnerable populations and, collectively, begin to change the course of the pandemic. Multiple vaccines are of course needed and industry is stepping up to the challenge.

Protection against COVID-19 should not be about where you come from, or how much you earn. It is about equity and a collective responsibility to protect public health. In pursuit of this goal, industry, governments and international organizations have come together like never before to deliver global access to the vaccine.

Of the first deliveries in-country, Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, says, “This is a moment for celebration [but] we must remain firmly focused on delivering equitable access if we are to stop the endless cycle of lockdowns and illness.”

This relentless determination to protect life and livelihoods is characteristic of every partner of COVAX. In the past, pandemics have seen fundamental inequity and vaccines being monopolised by those who could afford them. We need to make COVAX succeed – particularly with the recent vaccine panic as a result of new variants. It is critical that this time around, the largest and most rapid global rollout of a vaccine in history is underpinned by collaboration, and unwavering in its focus to leave no one behind.

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