A global program called Covax has made strides in an ambitious effort to deploy future vaccines equitably around the world, getting dozens of countries to join and securing deals for 700 million doses so far.
reached an agreement to supply the initiative, while a collaboration including the Serum Institute of India agreed to accelerate the production of Astra or Novavax shots for low- and middle-income nations, priced at a maximum of $3 per dose, with an option to secure more. A Covax pact with Sanofi and partner GlaxoSmithKline Plc followed last month.
The program, led by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, expects more deals in the coming weeks. Pfizer and BioNTech, along with Moderna, remain in talks with Covax.
has easily been the most active in reaching supply accords. Of all the volumes committed globally, almost a third--about 3.2 billion doses--are set to come from the U.K. company, according to Airfinity. More than 50 lower- and middle-income countries would receive Astra and Oxford’s shot, in regions including Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe, along with wealthy governments too, the research group found.
If the vaccine is successful, fulfilling that demand won’t be easy. In the U.K., a shortfall in supplies of the shot expected by the end of the year casts doubt on how swiftly AstraZeneca will be able to immunize the public. Yet the company has said it’s confident it can begin supplying hundreds of millions of doses on a rolling basis once it gains approval.
One of the key factors behind the reliance on the Astra-Oxford vaccine is the initial price. Astra has said it won’t profit during the pandemic and that the vaccine will cost between $4 and $5 a dose, though health advocates worry what that company and others will charge when the crisis is deemed over.
The U.S. agreed in July to obtain the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in a deal that sets the price at $19.50 a dose, or $39 for a two-shot immunization, a level BioNTech said could become a benchmark for developed nations. Moderna said it’s charging $32 to $37 a dose for smaller deals and less for bigger purchases.
“Those prices really risk putting vaccines out of reach for a lot of the world,” said Margaret Wurth, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in New York.
Astra-Oxford also has advantages beyond cost when it comes to the rollout in low- and middle-income countries. The global scope of manufacturing eases worries about countries restricting exports, and the product should be easier to transport and store, according to Eccleston-Turner, the Keele expert.
The jab importantly can be kept at refrigerator temperatures, while those from Pfizer and Moderna, based on novel messenger RNA technology, require freezing for longer-term storage and transport.
That’s why so many countries are eagerly awaiting the Astra results and focusing on the next candidates, including those from China. Russia also plans to produce the Sputnik V vaccine in other countries such as India and Brazil.
“All of the wealthy countries are now fairly well positioned,” said Moon, the health specialist in Geneva. For developing countries, “it’s not as if they have been sitting back and saying we’ll see what trickles down to us. They’ve been aggressively pursuing what they can with the means at their disposal.”
(With assistance from Riley Griffin and Naomi Kresge.)
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