WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE

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22-Jan-2021 00:03:54
COVAX, the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level, today announced the signing of an advance purchase agreement with Pfizer for up to 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate, which has already received WHO emergency use listing. WHO

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STORY: WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE
TRT:3:54
SOURCE: WHO
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH /NATS

DATELINE: 22 JANUARY 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

SHOTLIST:

1. Wide shot, press room
2. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO:
"Today I’m glad to announce that COVAX has signed an agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech for up to 40 million doses of its vaccine. Additionally, pending WHO regulatory approval, we expect almost 150 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to be available for distribution by COVAX in the first quarter of this year. Together, these announcements mean COVAX could begin delivering doses in February, provided we can finalize a supply agreement for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and emergency use listing for the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. COVAX is on track to deliver 2 billion doses by the end of year."
3. Wide shot, press room
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer:
"On December 31st, the last day of last year, our COVID-19 vaccine was the first to be granted a World Health Organization emergency use listing. And today, we are proud to have this opportunity to provide doses that will support COVAX efforts towards vaccinating healthcare workers at high risk of exposure in developing countries and other vulnerable of course populations."
5. Wide shot, press room
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer, Gavi:
"Of course, we can do more and we need to do more. By our calculation with the right level of funding in place, COVAX could procure 2.3 billion doses of vaccines in 2021. This would equate to close to 1.8 billion doses for the 92 lower income countries in the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment or AMC as we call it. That's enough to protect about 27 percent of the population in those low and lower middle income countries, which is an excess of the initial targets we laid out to protect those at highest risk, and we have the prospect of more doses to come through, both other deals and the dose sharing principles that we announced in December."
7. Wide shot, press room
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF:
"In the coming weeks, UNICEF will begin transporting vaccines together with syringes and safety boxes to countries around the world. And we are working with airlines and freight and logistics providers to ensure safe and timely delivery."
9. Wide shot, press room
10. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO:
"We should say that if you have increased transmissibility, you will have more cases. I know that might sound obvious, but you'll have more cases. You'll have more hospitalizations and you'll have more people in overburdened in healthcare systems. And in a situation where you have an overburden healthcare system, you can have increased deaths because the system is overwhelmed and doctors and nurses, who are working incredibly hard to save as many lives as they can, don't have as much time with patients, they're overburdened. And so, we emphasize that no matter what virus is circulating, virus variants or not, we have to do everything we can to reduce transmission, everything we can to reduce transmission."
11. Wide shot, press room
12. WHO Dr Kate O'Brien, Director, Department of Immunizations, Vaccines and Biologicals, WHO:
"The risk of variants relative to the vaccines is ever greater when the transmission is very high in communities, not only because of variants that have already occurred, but because of the possibility of additional variants emerging under the pressure of vaccines."
13. Wide shot, press room

STORYLINE:

COVAX, the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level, today announced the signing of an advance purchase agreement with Pfizer for up to 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate, which has already received WHO emergency use listing.

"On December 31st, the last day of last year, our COVID-19 vaccine was the first to be granted a World Health Organization emergency use listing. And today, we are proud to have this opportunity to provide doses that will support COVAX efforts towards vaccinating healthcare workers at high risk of exposure in developing countries and other vulnerable of course populations," said Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer.

COVAX also confirmed today that it will exercise an option – via an existing agreement with Serum Institute of India (SII) – to receive its first 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University-developed vaccine manufactured by SII.

“Together, these announcements mean COVAX could begin delivering doses in February, provided we can finalize a supply agreement for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and emergency use listing for the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. COVAX is on track to deliver 2 billion doses by the end of year," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s Director-General.

Of these first 100 million doses, the majority are earmarked for delivery in the first quarter of the year, pending WHO Emergency Use Listing. The WHO review process, which is currently underway, follows approval for restricted use in emergency situations by the Drugs Controller General of India earlier this month, and is a critical aspect of ensuring that any vaccine procured through COVAX is fully quality assured for international use. According to the latest WHO update, a decision on this vaccine candidate is anticipated by the middle of February.

COVAX also anticipates that, via an existing agreement with AstraZeneca, at least 50 million further doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine will be available for delivery to COVAX participants in the first quarter of 2021, pending emergency use listing by WHO of the COVAX-specific manufacturing network for these doses. A decision on this candidate is also anticipated by WHO in February.

"Of course, we can do more and we need to do more. By our calculation with the right level of funding in place, COVAX could procure 2.3 billion doses of vaccines in 2021. This would equate to close to 1.8 billion doses for the 92 lower income countries in the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment or AMC as we call it. That's enough to protect about 27 percent of the population in those low and lower middle income countries, which is an excess of the initial targets we laid out to protect those at highest risk, and we have the prospect of more doses to come through, both other deals and the dose sharing principles that we announced in December," said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which leads COVAX procurement and delivery.

Preparations, led by WHO, UNICEF and Gavi, are already well under way for COVAX to deliver vaccines to economies eligible for support via the COVAX AMC, with Gavi making USD 150 million available from its core funding as initial, catalytic support for preparedness and delivery.

Building on the work of the past months supporting country readiness efforts, a “Country Readiness Portal” will be launched by WHO this month, which will allow AMC participants to submit final national deployment and vaccination plans (NDVPs). This is a vital step before allocations can be made, to ensure that delivered doses are able to be effectively deployed and to identify where, if necessary, further support is needed.

"In the coming weeks, UNICEF will begin transporting vaccines together with syringes and safety boxes to countries around the world. And we are working with airlines and freight and logistics providers to ensure safe and timely delivery," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
The COVAX Facility intends to provide all 190 participating economies with an indicative allocation of doses by the end of this month. This indicative allocation will provide interim guidance to participants – offering a minimum planning scenario to enable preparations for the final allocation of the number of doses each participant will receive in the first rounds of vaccine distribution.

COVAX now has agreements in place to access just over two billion doses of several promising vaccine candidates. Negotiations continue for further doses to be secured through existing R&D agreements by COVAX co-lead the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), through evaluations of new products with promising results and through contributions from donors.

Based on this, COVAX anticipates being able to provide participating economies doses of safe and effective vaccines – enough to protect health care and other frontline workers as well as some high-risk individuals – beginning in Q1 2021. The aim is to protect at least 20 percent of each participating population by the end of the year – unless a participant has requested a lower percentage of doses. At least 1.3 billion of these doses will be made available to the 92 economies eligible for the Gavi COVAX AMC by the end of 2021.

To meet its goal of securing two billion safe and effective vaccines in 2021, COVAX has built a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates which mitigates the risk of a product failing development, production or regulatory processes, and ensures availability of products suitable for various contexts and settings. This work will continue at pace to enable further supply of vaccines suitable for use across a wide range of populations and settings in 2021 and beyond.

COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by CEPI, Gavi and WHO – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.

CEPI is leading on the COVAX vaccine research and development portfolio, investing in R&D across a variety of promising candidates, with the goal to support development of three safe and effective vaccines which can be made available to countries participating in the COVAX Facility. As part of this work, CEPI has secured first right of refusal to potentially over one billion doses for the COVAX Facility to a number of candidates, and made strategic investments in vaccine manufacturing, which includes reserving capacity to manufacture doses of COVAX vaccines at a network of facilities, and securing glass vials to hold 2 billion doses of vaccine. CEPI is also investing in the ‘next generation’ of vaccine candidates, which will give the world additional options to control COVID-19 in the future.

Gavi is leading on procurement and delivery for COVAX, coordinating the design and implementation of the COVAX Facility and the COVAX AMC and working with Alliance partners UNICEF and WHO, along with governments, on country readiness and delivery. The COVAX Facility is the global pooled procurement mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines through which COVAX will ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for all 190 participating economies, using an allocation framework formulated by WHO. The COVAX Facility will do this by pooling buying power from participating economies and providing volume guarantees across a range of promising vaccine candidates. The Gavi COVAX AMC is the financing mechanism that will support the participation of 92 low- and middle-income countries in the Facility, enabling access to donor-funded doses of safe and effective vaccines. UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) will be acting as procurement coordinators for the COVAX Facility, helping deliver vaccines to all participants.

WHO has multiple roles within the COVAX: among other things it supports countries as they prepare to receive and administer vaccines and does so in partnership with UNICEF. It provides normative guidance on vaccine policy, regulation, safety, R&D, allocation, and country readiness and delivery. Its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization develops evidence-based immunization policy recommendations. Its Emergency Use Listing (EUL)/prequalification programmes ensure harmonized review and authorization across member states. It provides global coordination and member state support on vaccine safety monitoring. It developed the target product profiles for COVID-19 vaccines and provides R&D technical coordination. Along with COVAX partners, it is developing a no-fault compensation scheme for indemnification and liability issues. COVAX is part of the Act accelerator which WHO launched with partners in 2020.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 822 million children – and prevented more than 14 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 lower-income countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation and reaching the unvaccinated children still being left behind, employing innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organizations that fund Gavi’s work here.
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