As wealthy countries race to secure supplies of potential COVID-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled (PDF) an ambitious effort with global partners to provide billions of doses worldwide.
Under an $18 billion program, the WHO—plus global groups Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)—aim to speed the R&D process for all countries and simultaneously establish manufacturing and distribution infrastructure for a global rollout. The group aims to deliver 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2021 in countries with the greatest need.
The vaccine push is part of a larger $31.3 billion program for COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. Already, the groups have raised $3.4 billion for their initiative, with $2.6 billion earmarked for the vaccines campaign. The commitment leaves a $11.3 billion funding gap of “immediate needs” for the partners to fundraise from donors.
WHO’s campaign comes as leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates race forward, with phase 3 studies for some programs planned this summer. Amid the race, the U.S. and Europe have inked deals to secure supplies should the candidates work, raising concern from some experts that low- and middle-income countries will not be able to secure immediate access.
To address that concern, AstraZeneca entered a $750 million deal to provide its shot, originally developed by the University of Oxford, for developing countries.
Meanwhile, CEPI is in the process of "matchmaking" manufacturing capabilities at biopharma companies with the requirements for leading vaccine candidates, an official told Reuters this week. He said he could envision 4 billion vaccine doses being made by the end of next year.