COVAX: Europe put to the test of global vaccine solidarity

Introduction ▪

More than 1.6 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date across the globe yet there is a glaring gap between rich and poor countries in terms of access to the vaccine. Faced with this pandemic, for one person to be safe, everyone has to be. The only means of fully emerging from this health crisis is a collective response through international solidarity and cooperation. A race is on to reduce the prevalence of the disease and to slow the mutations of the virus, against which borders are not sufficient. The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, keeps saying this: “We must continue to advocate global solidarity because the virus will not be defeated in a divided world. We must share all that we have. This is not charity, it’s in every country’s best interest”.
Europeans see themselves at the forefront of this struggle for reasons that are moral, humanitarian, health-related and economic. The aim is therefore to deal with the uncertainty regarding variants, to bring about a long-term recovery and to secure supply chains.

As part of the “Global response to coronavirus” recommended by the G20, the EU and its Member States are one of the co-founders and leading funding body of COVAX (Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access), the international solidarity mechanism launched in April 2020 by the WHO, together with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). This mechanism is designed to ramp up the development and production of vaccines with a view to guaranteeing fair access around the world.

Facilitating access to the vaccine for all was the focus of discussions at the Global Health Summit held on 21 May in Rome as part of the Italian presidency of the G20, co-chaired by Italian prime minister Mario Draghi and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The Declaration adopted by the participants defines a series of principles which will guide the global response in the event of future pandemics.