The United States is an outlier in many regards when it comes to Covid-19. Not only is it the country with the highest number of cases (7 million), the highest number of deaths (over 200,000) but, by backing away from the World Health Organization (the sponsorship of which might end, per President Trump, by June 2021), it is isolating itself from international efforts to address the pandemic. The reality, however, is that any nation will be susceptible to new outbreaks unless the virus is tamped down globally, and that global trade for many countries will be limited if the virus remains hot in some countries.
Mindful of this, and recognizing humanitarian desires in many countries, the World Health Organization, GAVI, the Vaccines Alliance, and CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, have banded together to create the Covax Facility. Covax, broadly speaking, will enable countries, nongovernment organizations and regional bodies to fund the manufacture and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, once they become available. (“Covax Facility” grows out of earlier—and parallel—efforts to get vaccine development going last spring; GAVI and WHO have been propagating a variety of mechanisms—and acronyms—but it’s likely that Covax will be the operative grouping going forward.)
All this is beginning to come together as the United Nations gathered in New York for its 75th General Assembly—something that usually garners worldwide attention, but which this year is mostly a lower-key, virtual-meeting effort. “The Covax Facility is the mechanism that will enable a globally-coordinated rollout for the greatest possible impact,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, in a Sept. 21 opening address at the UN. “The fastest route to ending the pandemic and accelerating the global economic recovery is to ensure some people are vaccinated in all countries, not all people in some countries.”
GAVI has been addressing vaccinations and global health for many years. CEPI came into being following a World Economic Forum (aka Davos) meeting in 2017 to address potential pandemics, and funded Covid-19 research (including in the US) beginning last spring. Under the Covax Facility, higher-income nations (56 so far; like the US, neither China nor Russia are involved) will pool their financial resources through “advance purchase agreements” with manufacturers; then the vaccines will be distributed to them and to (so far) 92 lower-income nations according to a pricing and allocation schedule. The initial goal is to provide member countries with enough vaccine for 3% of their populations, rising later to 20%. So far, $3 billion has been committed, but Ghebreyesus says $35 billion will be needed ultimately.
According to the tracking service World-o-meter, as of Sept. 22, there are nearly 32 million Covid-19 cases globally and 975 thousand deaths have been recorded.