Members' Research Service By / March 17, 2022

Understanding COVAX: The EU’s role in vaccinating the world against Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic is still taking a heavy toll on humankind. As of 13 March 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported 452 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 6 million deaths globally.

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Written by Eric Pichon.

In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘nobody is safe until everybody is safe’. On this basis, the EU, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other public and private partners, set up a global initiative to facilitate the development, production and global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. COVAX was initially designed to pool funds and vaccine doses in order to ensure an equitable distribution between all participating economies until all of them – higher- and lower-income alike – reached a threshold of 20 % of their populations vaccinated.

The COVAX mechanism does not, however, prevent high-income economies from striking bilateral agreements with vaccine manufacturers or selected beneficiary countries. In this context, self-financing economies have secured several times more vaccine doses than their populations need, widening the vaccine supply gap for poorer economies.

The EU and participating Member States have contributed nearly a third of COVAX funding, however, as is the case for most donors, their vaccine donations have fallen short of the levels needed. The new rise in cases shows that ‘vaccine nationalism’ is not a viable policy.

The European Parliament has welcomed the EU’s participation in COVAX and expects the Commission to publish an assessment of this participation. To achieve the objective of immunising 70 % of the world population by mid-2022, the WHO has called on the EU, other donors and manufacturers to deliver on their pledges. In parallel, the plan is to develop vaccine manufacturing capacities in lower income economies, and devise a fair solution for sharing Covid-19-related knowledge and patents.

Read the complete briefing on ‘Understanding COVAX: The EU’s role in vaccinating the world against Covid-19‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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