ISLAMABAD: Apart from the welcome and much-needed donation of a large quantity of SinoPharm COVID-19 vaccine doses from China, Pakistan is also getting 17 million doses from COVAX free of cost as the government is yet to spend any money from its allocated budget for such purchases.
To start with, China has given 0.5m doses of the vaccine free of charge while COVAX –which is the funding vehicle for collaboration for the global efforts to develop and distribute vaccines and treatments against the lethal pandemic — is also donating the same for poorer countries, including Pakistan.
Pakistan has received a letter from the COVAX platform indicating the supply of up to 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine during the first half of 2021. Around six million doses will be received by March with delivery starting as early as the current month.
Last November, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet had approved, in principle, a $150 million supplementary grant to procure anti-coronavirus vaccines out of the funds reserved for the Covid-19 relief measures.
It was officially stated that the funds would be needed to book the requisite doses of the vaccine for about 10 million people in the first and second quarter of 2021. However, nothing has so far been spent from this allocation.
COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France in response to the pandemic, bringing together governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, the private sector, civil society and philanthropists, including the Gates Foundation, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to Covid-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines. The COVAX pillar is focused on the latter. It is a global response to this pandemic and is the only effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world get access to Covid-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth.
For lower-income funded nations, that would otherwise be unable to afford these vaccines, as well as a number of higher-income self-financing countries that have no bilateral deals with manufacturers, COVAX is quite literally a lifeline and the only viable way in which their citizens will get access to Covid-19 vaccines. For the wealthiest self-financing countries, some of which may also be negotiating bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers, it serves as an invaluable insurance policy to protect their citizens, both directly and indirectly. On the one hand, it will provide direct protection by increasing their chances of securing vaccine doses. Yet, at the same time by procuring Covid-19 vaccines through COVAX, these nations will also indirectly protect their citizens by reducing the chances of resurgence by ensuring that the rest of the world gets access to doses too.
Even though self-financing participants can request for enough doses to vaccinate between 10-50 percent of their population, no country will receive enough doses to vaccinate more than 20 percent of its population until all countries in the financing group have been offered this amount. The only exception is those countries that have opted to receive fewer than 20 percent.
By joining COVAX, both self-financing countries and funded countries will gain access to this portfolio of vaccines, as and when they prove to be both safe and effective. Self-financing countries will be guaranteed sufficient doses to protect a certain proportion of their population, depending upon how much they buy into it. Subject to funding availability, funded countries will receive enough doses to vaccinate up to 20 percent of their population in the longer term. Since demand is initially likely to exceed supply once vaccines do become available, allocation will be spread across countries based on the number of doses that are available and increase as that availability increases.
Self-financing countries and economies participating in the COVAX facility can request vaccine doses sufficient to vaccinate between 10-50 percent of their populations. The amount they pay into the facility will reflect the number of doses they have requested. For these countries, the facility serves as a critical insurance policy that will significantly increase their chances of securing vaccines, even if their own bilateral deals fail. And by pooling resources through the facility, participating countries and economies are essentially helping to increase the world’s chances of bringing about Covid-19 vaccines as quickly as possible and in the quantities that are needed.