By Rusiripala Tennakoon –
Some matters remain in exclusive realms to be confabulated only among the elite. But there is a saying that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. When the whole country was watching the king parading naked imagining he was wearing the best attire claimed by the weavers (according to the folk lore) that the clothe can be seen only by the wise. All choose to keep mum and tight lipped and a child shouted, ‘the king is naked’. The story goes on to explain what happened thereafter.
I read that Australia has about 600,000 Astra Zeneca vaccines which they are in a position to donate to a deserving country among many other Covid related paraphernalia. When I made enquiries from a few
of those I knew the answer I got was that it may not be possible for Australia to consider a request from us in this regard due to the operation of an International Organization called COVAX.
Like the talkative boy who decided to shout I thought of seeing whether the COVAX is stonewalling the choice of any country of helping another country on a bi-lateral basis.
Let me quote certain relevant extracts about this Organization to understand its origin and objectives better. In the year 2000 an Organization called Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) was formed based in Switzerland Geneva. It was expected to create equal opportunities to access vaccines to children in all parts of the world. It was a Global health partnership built as a Public private partnership with an innovative approach to International health and development by sharing the know-how, experience and consensus on the strategies of all parties concerned.
The main activities of this Organization are as follows, “GAVI’s strategy supports its mission to save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing access to immunization in poor countries. It contributes to achieving the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals by focusing on performance, outcomes and results. Its partners provide funding for vaccines and intellectual resources for care advancement. They contribute, also, to strengthening the capacity of the health system to deliver immunization and other health services in a sustainable manner.”
IN the aftermath of the more recent Covid-19 pandemic the attention of global leaders had to be focused as a priority to a growing global crisis associated with the epidemic. Many related important issues had to be addressed to ensure the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines by accelerating the efforts for the development of diagnostics, treatments while guaranteeing fair and equitable access to the vaccines to people in all countries. Much emphasis was laid on the need to ensure that every one in the world has access to those vaccines. This gave birth to COVAX as a solution to all these issues, as unique organization with global collaboration with the objective of bringing the epidemic to an end.
COVAX has been described as, “a global organization with 3 pillars of the ACCESS to COVID-19 tools (ACT) accelerator which was launched in April 2020, by WHO, EU and France in response to the Pandemic outburst, bringing together governments ,global health Organizations, mnufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines .The COVAX pillar is focused on the latter.It is the only truly global solution to this pandemic because it is the only effort to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to Covid-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth.
COVAX is working in collaboration with GAVI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO by acting as a platform to support the research, development and manufacturing of a wide range of COVID-19 vaccines and negotiating their pricing. The aim of this body is to make available 2billion doses of vaccine by end of 2021. It is also expected that all participating countries ,to have equal access to the vaccines once produced. It is estimated that the numbers projected will be sufficient to take care of the high risk categories and the health care staff.
COVAX will make the vaccines available to self-financing higher income countries as well as funded countries.They will gain access to this source while assuring the receipt of doses sufficient to vaccinate at least 20% of the population of poor countries(funded countries).It is understood that the principal role of the COVAX is to maximize chances of the participating countries as quickly as possible in a fair and safe manner. To make this a reality a COVAX Facility has been created by GAVI in which all countries, whether self-financed or funded economies can participate. To support the access to vaccines by lower-income economies Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) is established. Hence all countries can participate in the COVAX regardless of their ability to pay.
The primary focus of Gavi COVAX AMC is to ensure that the 92 middle and lower-income countries that cannot fully afford to pay CORVID-19 vaccines themselves get equal access to COVID-19 vaccines as self-financing countries in the same way. For this purpose the COVAX AMC is entirely financed mainly through Official Development Assistance (ODA) as well as contributions from the Private sector and Philanthropy.
In this background it is difficult to believe how COVAX would interfere or object any two countries to work under bi-lateral understandings of their own without affecting the functions , objectives and the broad vision of COVAX. If Australia is willing to part with their extra excess of AstraZeneca vaccine volume with a deserving country like ours it can be hardly believed that COVAX should stonewall such a humanitarian objective. Further-more we gave AstraZeneca as our first dose obtained from India and we are faced with a big problem in giving the second dose due to the extremely hazardous conditions India itself is facing. In these circumstances A little persuasive action handled and initiated seriously by someone in Authority is likely to bring about a resolution and a relief to several affected humans. Unfortunately, most people know only to procrastinate issues on flimsy excuses rather than fully exerting to achieve the desired goal!