The COVID-19 pandemic arrived on the world scene at an inopportune time in terms of international relations, given the current state of global division and isolationist nationalism. Cooperation between nations is extremely important in containing a pandemic. However, this sentiment was sparse during the early stages of the virus’ spread due to the prevailing geopolitical climate. Now that COVID has expanded across the world and endangered millions, international cooperation is perhaps more important than ever in the urgent search for a vaccine. The World Health Organization, GAVI and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) have united to form the COVAX Initiative: a program providing promise for both global teamwork and COVID mitigation.
What is the COVAX Initiative?
According to the WHO, COVAX is a coalition designed to “…accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.” The goal of the COVAX Initiative is twofold: to facilitate the creation of a vaccine and to ensure any eventual vaccine is made available to as many people as possible, regardless of national identity or socioeconomic status.
While many wealthy countries may succeed in vaccinating their populations without assistance from COVAX, all nations would still benefit from the Initiative: recent events have proven that in order to guarantee true safety from COVID-19, the disease must be eradicated worldwide. Thus, it is in everyone’s interest to provide access to as many people as possible. COVAX is working to create a coalition of member nations, both wealthy and poor, to achieve this mission.
Current Member Countries
A total of 172 countries have joined the COVAX Initiative so far. 80 wealthy countries have made commitments to the Initiative, including the UK, Norway and Japan. Additionally, 92 lower-income countries including Afghanistan, the Philippines and Yemen have become involved. According to the Director-General of the WHO Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, COVID presents a challenge that necessitates an unprecedented level of international cooperation.
COVAX aims to deliver two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021. Currently, the COVAX Initiative has nine vaccines under development and is evaluating nine more. According to the WHO, these innovations imply that the Initiative has “…the largest and most diverse COVID-19 vaccine portfolio in the world.”
Healthcare workers will recieve the first round of vaccinations; higher-risk patients will receive the second round. Member nations will recieve doses in amounts proportional to their population. To ensure widespread delivery of the vaccine, the Initiative plans to help fund infrastructure development as necessary in poorer member countries.
The COVAX Initiative is built on the idea that, for anyone to be safe from COVID-19, everyone must be safe. The Initiative represents a positive step towards international cooperation, a crucial aspect of effectively eradicating this destructive and deadly pandemic. Once a functional vaccine is in circulation, the world’s poor will likely have the least access. This structural inequity means that projects like COVAX could save countless lives and prevent future resurgences of COVID.
– Dylan Weir