Document of The Week: Global Plan for Sharing Vaccines

An alliance of international health organizations are competing with the United States and other rich countries in an effort to secure vaccines for the world’s neediest.

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With the Trump administration seeking to gobble up much of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine supplies for Americans, the World Health Organization and a coalition of governments and international health organizations have been straining to secure future stores of vaccines for the world’s neediest. The effort is led by Gavi, which is dedicated to making vaccines available to children around the world, and involves the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which helps finance vaccine development and production, and the U.N. health agency.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility alliance aims to persuade governments to invest in the development and distribution of multiple vaccines to priority, vulnerable populations—including health workers, the elderly, and the ill—before distributing them universally. The effort is running into headwinds from bigger and sometimes richer countries, including China, the United States, and many in Europe, which are locking in their own agreements with major suppliers of vaccines.

On Friday, the French drugmaker Sanofi announced that the U.S. government would spend $2.1 billion to help the company and its British partner, GlaxoSmithKline, produce 100 million doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, bringing the total U.S. investment in experimental vaccines to more than $8 billion. Only a fraction of vaccine candidates are ever brought to market, and the United States, like many other countries, is betting on several companies to increase the odds that one or more will succeed.

As part of our Document of the Week series, Foreign Policy is publishing a copy of a June 11 internal draft technical design plan, outlining the COVAX Facility strategy for distributing vaccines around the world.

“The world urgently needs safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines to protect the most vulnerable, stop transmission and prevent resurgence of COVID-19,” according to the plan, which Foreign Policy cited in a previous report.

“Individual countries and groups of countries are already trying to address this challenge and secure vaccine[s] for their domestic or regional needs by entering into bilateral agreements with manufacturers. However, going down this pathway with a siloed and disaggregated approach will not be effective or efficient. The competition for vaccine candidate would lead to a global bidding frenzy, driving up pricing as countries ‘panic buy.’”

Officials familiar with the effort to secure government investments in the COVAX Facility say the goal is to conclude negotiations by the end of August. But a number of sticking points remain, including who will decide who gets the vaccines—or, as one official put it, “who calls the shots on the shots.”

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

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