The global scheme to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving nations home to billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024.
The World Health Organization’s COVAX programme is the main global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle income countries around the world against the coronavirus. It aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 to cover 20% of the most vulnerable people in 91 poor and middle-income countries, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
But in internal documents reviewed by Reuters, the scheme’s promoters say the programme is struggling from a lack of funds, supply risks and complex contractual arrangements which could make it impossible to achieve its goals.
“The risk of a failure to establish a successful COVAX Facility is very high,” says an internal report to the board of Gavi, an alliance of governments, drug companies, charities and international organisations that arranges global vaccination campaigns. Gavi co-leads COVAX alongside the WHO.
The report and other documents prepared by Gavi are being discussed at Gavi’s board meetings on Dec. 15-17.
The failure of the facility could leave people in poor nations without any access to COVID-19 vaccines until 2024, one of the documents says.
The risk of failure is higher because the scheme was set up so quickly, operating in “uncharted territory”, the report says.
“Current risk exposure is deemed outside of risk appetite until there is full clarity on the size of risks and possibilities to mitigate them,” it says. “It therefore requires intensive mitigation efforts to bring the risk within risk appetite.”