Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, the nonprofit at the heart of Covax, said insufficient early funding made supply shortages inevitable. When distribution problems like these in Chad and Benin emerge, Covax tries to “move these vaccines to other countries, but then work with those countries to try to improve capacity,” he said.
Supporters and critics alike agree the program needs to improve, quickly. In early July, confidential Covax documents indicated that 22 countries, some with an increase in the number of deaths, reported being almost or entirely out of doses of the program.
“The way Covax was packaged and branded, African countries thought he was going to be their savior,” said Dr Catherine Kyobutungi, who heads the African Center for Population and Health Research. “When it didn’t meet expectations, there was nothing else.
Rich and poor
In the frantic first months of 2020, health experts strategized on how to equitably immunize the world. Covax was the answer, bringing together two nonprofits funded by Gates, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI; the World Health Organization; and UNICEF, which would lead the delivery efforts. He hoped to be a major global buyer of vaccines, for both rich and poor countries, which would give him the power to intimidate vaccine makers.
But while rich nations have pledged donations, they have not made obliging partners. Britain has negotiated for richer participants to have a choice of which vaccines to buy through Covax, creating delays, said Kate Elder, senior vaccine policy adviser for Doctors Without Borders’ access campaign .
More importantly, rich countries have become rivals in a race to buy vaccines, paying premiums to secure their own vaccines while slowly making financial pledges Covax needed to sign deals.