UNICEF-WHO: COVAX ultar-low temperature freezers boost vaccine storage capacity to 9 million
DHAKA, 28 September 2021 – Twenty-six ultra-low temperature freezers delivered by UNICEF through COVAX in August are enabling Bangladesh to receive, store and distribute large quantities of COVID-19 vaccines that require ultra-cold storage.
Each of the 26 freezers can hold over 300,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, supporting administration of these vaccines into districts beyond Dhaka. Today’s COVAX shipment of 2.5 million US-donated doses of Pfizer is made possible thanks to this additional ultra-cold chain capacity.
“As more countries come forward through COVAX to ensure equitable access to the vaccines, increasing the ultra-cold chain capacity in receiving countries is of crucial importance,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh. “UNICEF, as an implementing partner of COVAX, will continue to support Bangladesh until the end of the pandemic. No one is safe until everyone is safe,” he added.
The delivery of 26 ultra-low temperature freezers to Bangladesh is part of UNICEF’s global target of delivering 350 ultra-low temperature freezers to more than 45 countries on behalf of COVAX. This is an immense and unprecedented undertaking to develop national cold-chain capacities in order to accelerate the number of fully vaccinated people in the shortest possible time.
As of today, only 9 per cent of the population in Bangladesh has been fully vaccinated. COVAX aims to ensure equitable access to vaccines and supplies, particularly to low and middle-income countries. Today’s shipment of 2.5 million doses is part of a donation from the United States of 6 million Pfizer doses through COVAX. This is in addition to other COVAX deliveries and also large quantities of vaccines brought into the country by the Government of Bangladesh through bilateral agreements.
“WHO highly appreciates COVAX for extending its support to the Government of Bangladesh,” said Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Country Representative. “Ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines offers the best hope to slow down the pandemic, save lives and secure the world economic recovery. Each of these freezers will play a key role in improving the country’s ultra-low cold chain vaccine storage capacity. Ensuring that vaccines reach everybody, everywhere is the top priority and a critical step towards health for all. We cannot afford to leave anyone behind,” he added.
Vaccines and supplies through the COVAX Facility to low- and middle-income countries, including Bangladesh, are generously supported both by donor pledges and by direct donations. UNICEF and WHO call on the continued and greater support to COVAX from donors and from countries that have already achieved high coverage.
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COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-convened by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, 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’s role in COVAX
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’s role in COVAX
Gavi leads on procurement and delivery at scale for COVAX: designing and managing the COVAX Facility and the Gavi COVAX AMC and working with its traditional Alliance partners UNICEF and WHO, along with governments, on country readiness and delivery. As part of this role, Gavi hosts the Office of the COVAX Facility to coordinate the operation and governance of the mechanism as a whole, holds financial and legal relationships with 193 Facility participants, and manages the COVAX Facility deals portfolio: negotiating advance purchase agreements with manufacturers of promising vaccine candidates to secure doses on behalf of all COVAX Facility participants. Gavi also coordinates design, operationalization and fundraising for the Gavi COVAX AMC, the mechanism that provides access to donor-funded doses of vaccine to 92 lower-income economies. As part of this work, Gavi provides funding and oversight for UNICEF procurement and delivery of vaccines to all AMC participants – operationalizing the advance purchase agreements between Gavi and manufacturers – as well as support for partners’ and governments work on readiness and delivery. This includes tailored support to governments, UNICEF, WHO and other partners for cold chain equipment, technical assistance, syringes, vehicles, and other aspects of the vastly complex logistical operation for delivery. Gavi also co-designed, raises funds for and supports the operationalization of the AMC’s no fault compensation mechanism as well as the COVAX Humanitarian Buffer.
WHO’s role in COVAX
WHO has multiple roles within COVAX: 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. WHO leads, together with UNICEF, the Country Readiness and Delivery workstream, which provides support to countries as they prepare to receive and administer vaccines. Along with Gavi and numerous other partners working at the global, regional, and country-level, the CRD workstream provides tools, guidance, monitoring, and on the ground technical assistance for the planning and roll-out of the vaccines. Along with COVAX partners, WHO has developed a no-fault compensation scheme as part of the time-limited indemnification and liability commitments
UNICEF’s role in COVAX
UNICEF is leveraging its experience as the largest single vaccine buyer in the world and working with manufacturers and partners on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as freight, logistics and storage. UNICEF already procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries. In collaboration with the PAHO Revolving Fund, UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and supply doses of COVID-19 vaccines for COVAX. In addition, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are working with governments around the clock to ensure that countries are ready to receive the vaccines, with appropriate cold chain equipment in place and health workers trained to dispense them. UNICEF is also playing a lead role in efforts to foster trust in vaccines, delivering vaccine confidence communications and tracking and addressing misinformation around the world.
The Access to COVID-19 Tools ACT-Accelerator, is a new, ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March and launched by the WHO, European Commission, France and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.
The ACT-Accelerator is not a decision-making body or a new organization, but works to speed up collaborative efforts among existing organizations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as possible through the accelerated development, equitable allocation, and scaled up delivery of tests, treatments and vaccines, thereby protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organizations which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges, and who, by working together, are able to unlock new and more ambitious results against COVID-19. Its members share a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it.
The ACT-Accelerator has four areas of work: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and the health system connector. Cross-cutting all of these is the workstream on Access & Allocation.
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