As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVAX Facility is a multi-billion dollar, multilateral mechanism designed to achieve equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines. Co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organization (WHO), this initiative is working with partners across the globe to support the research, development, manufacturing, and distribution of multiple vaccine candidates. Within this global coalition, Citi was selected as the financial advisor to provide advice on mitigating the financial risks associated with the equitable distribution of the vaccine to all member countries. Having worked closely with both governments and the private sector, Citi has brought thought, leadership and extensive expertise in developing sustainable financial solutions in the current pandemic climate.
This Concordia Live — as part of our webinar series which brings together leaders from across the public and private sectors to address the most pressing issues of our time — featured representatives from Citi and Gavi to discuss the importance of the COVAX Facility to end this crisis, the opportunities and barriers they are currently facing, and the need for cross-sector partnerships to tackle the most pressing challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in globally.
To learn more, please visit Gavi’s blog post, authored by Hanne Dalmut, Senior Director of Partnerships, here.
Did Mr. Berkley call for more global surveillance?
Dr. Berkley – “We need stronger disease surveillance systems. With more people living in closer proximity to each other, and over a billion people crossing international borders each year, the transmission of disease is not only easier, it’s harder to stop. In the absence of a vaccine, our best chance of doing so is to catch outbreaks as early on as possible. That means better disease surveillance. Infectious disease surveillance networks already exist across the globe, but they can be highly porous and of varying effectiveness. One cost-effective way of widening the net is through improved access to primary healthcare, particularly in lower-income countries, where often these infectious diseases emerge undetected.”
How do you explain Israel’s success in terms of vaccination? And why do other countries not follow your example? On the other hand, why has it not been created in the most vulnerable countries to have structures for themselves to produce the vaccine and thus bring more equity and not dependence on northern (more developed) countries?
Mr. Collins – “Israel’s success can largely be attributed to its universal healthcare system which has enabled them with the infrastructure to rapidly administer vaccines and immunize its population. On the contrary, limited access to finance, mounting debt, access to capital and well-developed health systems make it difficult for the most vulnerable countries to achieve the same success.”
Some countries were able to squash COVID-19 early on by using therapies and implementing strict lockdowns. Countries like the US were obsessed with vaccines since day 1 and wouldn’t let other research reach mainstream news sources while ventilators literally killed people. What are COVAX and GAVI’s relationships like with the U.S. government and mainstream Western media?
Dr. Berkley – “The United States is a long-standing Gavi partner and has recently approved US$ 4 billion over 2021 and 2022 for Gavi’s COVID-19 related work. This support will help shorten this crisis, save lives and help restart the global economy. In today’s interconnected world, no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Beyond the science, how are you achieving baseline coverage, particularly in the Global South. Volunteers are often the core of last-mile delivery. How are you using them to achieve base coverage?
Mr. Collins – “Gavi, WHO, and UNICEF have been working together to support in-country readiness efforts and help prepare participating economies for vaccine delivery. CSOs also play a critical role in program monitoring and implementation to ensure COVAX reaches the most vulnerable given their deep experience and understanding of realities on the ground. Through these partnerships, COVAX is able to ensure effective deployment of doses to achieve last mile delivery.”
I would like to know if COVAX is also providing Technical Assistance to countries?
Dr. Berkley – “Yes. Participants in the Gavi COVAX AMC, the financing mechanism that supports the participation of 92 low- and middle-income economies, are eligible to request support for technical assistance.”
How do we tackle vaccine resistance? This seems key if we want to ensure sufficient vaccine coverage across all countries? And must also be a global priority?
Dr. Berkley – “The key to addressing vaccine hesitancy is to build trust and the way to foster trust is engagement with communities. Facts alone don’t make this happen. Building trust is an everyday action, and it requires understanding and respecting the concerns people have.”
The risk of a black market is that there will be fake vaccines and this will put everybody in a high risk. How could philanthropy help most vulnerable Countries with this challenge? How could civil society join the challenge?
Mr. Collins – “CSOs have years of experience in public health and a breadth of community knowledge that can be leveraged to complement government efforts during the crisis. Recognizing this expertise, COVAX has engaged CSOs in facility planning and operations. CSO engagement can help improve the implementation effectiveness of COVID-19 programs through helping authorities with program monitoring, building trust, gathering feedback, and more.”
PPPs need to present flexible strategies. While strong partnerships might build on existing collaboration (e.g. the already existing Gavi network) there must be sufficient creativity and adaptability to reimagine for the challenge at hand. This could involve bringing in new players, identifying new funding mechanisms, or reorganizing teams. Each change or addition, however, must be met with flexibility rather than rigidity.