The GAVI vaccine alliance’s board has approved up to $150 million to help 92 low- and middle-income countries prepare for the delivery of future COVID-19 vaccines, including technical assistance and cold chain equipment, it said on Thursday.

The allocation of this amount, committed from Gavi core resources and intended to help these countries prepare for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, is accompanied by other decisions taken to support equitable access and country ownership, ensure continuity of routine immunisation programmes, and quickly establish the COVAX Facility at an operational level following the submission of legally binding commitments to participate on September 18.

“The only way to bring the loss of life, damage to livelihoods and huge economic losses wrought by COVID-19 to an end is to defeat the pandemic everywhere,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Gavi Board.

“The decisions taken today serve the twin goals of moving forward rapidly with our need to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines via the COVAX Facility and COVAX AMC, while supporting lower-income countries’ ability to maintain routine immunisation programmes and protect against the threat of other infectious diseases.”

In order to promote country ownership, global solidarity, and unlock new funding from sources such as multilateral development banks, the Board also approved the policy that AMC-eligible economies would share the costs of COVID-19 vaccines and delivery, up to US$ 1.60 – US$ 2 per dose – a mirror of the amount paid upfront by self-financing participants.

A key part of this decision is the clear understanding that flexibilities will be required on a case-by-case basis until at least the end of 2021, to make certain that cost-sharing will not prevent or delay the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines in AMC-eligible economies and ensure that these economies do not need to reallocate existing budgets, diverting resources from other vital routine vaccine programmes.

Recognising the impact of the pandemic on routine immunisation activities as a whole, on Tuesday the Board also approved, in relation to Gavi’s core programmes, the carry-forward of US$ 85 million in potential waivers for countries’ co-financing obligations for Gavi support for immunisation activities if necessary.

It also provided the authority, through 2021, to waive these co-financing obligations on a case-by-case basis, upon request from a country.

Alongside Tuesday’s decisions in support of Gavi’s core mission to leave no one behind with immunisation, decisions taken at the Board meeting yesterday ensure that, one week after 76 self-financing economies joined the COVAX Facility – the global effort to ensure equitable access to eventual COVID-19 vaccines regardless of income – the work of the Facility can quickly get underway.

The Board gave approval for the provisional establishment of governance bodies that will involve all 168 self-financing and AMC-eligible economies engaged in the COVAX Facility. The 76 self-financing economies will form part of the COVAX Shareholders Council, while the 92 economies eligible for the COVAX AMC will form part of the AMC Engagement Group.

Both groups will serve a non-technical strategic and advisory function with respect to operational aspects of COVAX Facility implementation, and will be self-organising.

“The world has come together in an unprecedented way over the last few months, acknowledging the reality that, in a pandemic we are most certainly stronger together,” said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“One week after receiving commitments from around the globe, the COVAX Facility is open for business and ready to serve its purpose. The decisions taken by the Board today will allow us to continue to collaborate with all countries and partners involved in this complex endeavor to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and an end to the acute stage of the pandemic.”

Gavi has recently established the Office of the COVAX Facility to oversee administration and coordination of the Facility. Aurélia Nguyen, formerly Managing Director for Vaccines and Sustainability at Gavi, takes on the role of Managing Director of the Office of the COVAX Facility as of today, for an initial appointment term of one year.

COVAX partners will also, in the coming weeks, establish technical bodies to inform the selection and inclusion of vaccine candidates within the COVAX portfolio, as well as procurement and allocation of doses.

The COVAX Facility is part of COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, Civil Society Organisations and others.

COVAX is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to economies of all financial means.

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