Team Europe delivers: first wave of COVAX-funded vaccine shipments worldwide channel way out of the pandemic
A year after COVID-19 put our lives on hold, the global roll-out of vaccines launched at the end of February means the world is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The COVAX mechanism, a global collaboration to which the EU is a major contributor, will deliver 32 million doses to 59 countries by the first quarter of 2021, and aims to secure 1.3 billion doses for 92 low and middle-income countries by the end of the year. Vaccine flights have been taking off almost every day, since Ghana, as the first country under the COVAX scheme, received the first 600,000 vaccine doses on 24 February.
The EU understood from the beginning that a global pandemic could only be addressed by a multilateral approach ensuring that everyone who needs a vaccine gets it, anywhere in the world. Because no one will be safe until we are all safe. To date, Team Europe –which combines resources from the EU, its Member States, and EU financial institutions- has announced over €2.2 billion, including €1 billion from the EU budget, to the COVAX Facility, the best vehicle for delivering on international vaccine solidarity —in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, GAVI the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
In addition, EU Member States will be able to further offer part of their doses to other third countries’ citizens through the EU Sharing mechanism, once the level of production within the EU and the overall epidemiological situation will allow it. So far, the EU has secured the production of 1.5 billion doses for EU citizens by signing contracts with six vaccine developers (four vaccines —BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson— have been already approved by the EMA).
Vaccines delivered to around 60 countries across the world by the end of March
From huge India (10M doses) to tiny Fiji (12K doses), from Africa to South East Asia, without forgetting Latin America or the EU's eastern and southern neighbourhood countries, COVAX vaccines flights will have delivered the first shipments to around 60 countries worldwide by the end of March. Many more will follow, including second and third batches for some countries, as established in the COVAX allocation plan.
The scene repeats itself each time, in every country. The plane lands and airport dockers begin to unload the large ‘COVAX’ boxes, full of vaccines and hope. The press and official authorities, including our EU ambassadors to each country, welcome them at the foot of the runway.
Besides India, Nigeria (4M doses), Ethiopia (2,2M doses), DR Congo (1,7M doses), Indonesia (1,1M doses), Kenya (1M doses), Uganda (860K doses) and Sudan (800K doses) are the countries that have received the largest shipments in the first round of deliveries. States receive doses in proportion to their population size.
Africa is clearly the continent that has benefited the most from the COVAX mechanism so far, with over 25 recipient countries. Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have been among the first Asian states receiving the COVAX-funded vaccines, while Bolivia, El Salvador and Honduras were the pioneer countries in Latin America. Some EU neighbouring partner countries in the east (Moldova) and the south (Tunisia, Palestine) have also received vaccines’ shipments.
COVAX vaccines delivery ceremony in El Salvador, March 2021.
Supporting the roll-out of vaccination campaigns
The European Union’s assistance does not stop at transporting vaccines. Deliveries are an important first step, but they would be useless in countries without sufficient capacity within their national health systems to implement vaccination campaigns.
Team Europe’s €40 billion global recovery package has the overall mission of supporting partner countries worldwide in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences, which involves addressing the immediate health emergency and humanitarian needs, strengthening health systems and supporting the economic recovery and social protection.
In addition to medical and protective equipment, diagnostic tests and laboratory equipment, training, supplied since the early stages of the pandemic, Team Europe’s support is now focused on the roll-out of vaccination campaigns in the recipient countries. Some of the latest shipments also included the delivery of syringes, pick-up and refrigerated vehicles to reach people in remote areas, and help for the setting up and management of the ultra-cold chains required by some vaccine types.