Gavi calls for $5.2bn in funding to ramp up Covid vaccine supply

Health professionals deliver shots in Ethiopia at launch of its national Covid-19 vaccination programme launch in March 2021 (Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/ Nahom Tesfaye)

Gavi, the vaccine alliance, on Wednesday said it needs to raise at least $5.2bn in additional funding this year to continue to deliver Covid-19 vaccine doses to countries.

Speaking at a hybrid press briefing hosted in Geneva, Gavi’s chairman, José Manuel Barroso, said that more than three billion people have yet to receive their first dose and it was critical to continue to pick up the pace. 

The Covax vaccine sharing programme celebrated last week the milestone delivery of one billion doses to 144 countries after increased shipments in the fourth quarter of 2021 helped boost supply. 

However, this was still half the number of doses it had originally intended to reach by year-end after facing several major obstacles, namely funding, export restrictions and limited vaccine supply after wealthier countries showed unwillingness to share. 

“This year will mark a turning point where we start to meet every countries’ needs, where we close the equity gap and where we start to break Covid,” Barroso said.

The additional funds are needed to establish a “pandemic vaccine pool” of a minimum of 600 million additional doses to address uncertainties and risks in the virus’s evolution, as well as to strengthen delivery systems in recipient countries, and cover other added costs such as syringes, transport and insurance for donations, Gavi said.

So far, the programme has raised $192m in commitments from​​ sovereign and philanthropic parties. 

Also speaking at the event, World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of Covax meeting its target of ensuring that 70 per cent of every country’s population is vaccinated by mid-2022. 

“The WHO is leading, with UNICEF and Gavi, intensified efforts to ramp up support for vaccine delivery to countries in need of assistance in Africa and elsewhere. Investment is needed to build this capacity in delivery systems to quickly turn vaccines into vaccinations in arms,” Dr Tedros said. 

“In 2022, we can end the acute phase of the pandemic or prolong it. World leaders have a choice.”