COVAX programme doubles global vaccine supply deals to two billion doses

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: The word "COVID-19" is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration

GENEVA (Reuters) - The COVAX alliance which aims to secure COVID-19 vaccines for the world's most vulnerable people said on Friday it had gained access to nearly 2 billion doses, roughly doubling its supply, with the first deliveries expected in the first quarter of 2021.

The initiative run by the Gavi vaccine alliance and World Health Organization (WHO) said that it aimed to deliver 1.3 billion doses of approved vaccines next year to 92 eligible low- and middle-income economies.

All 190 economies that have agreed to participate in the programme will "have access to doses in the first half of 2021, with first deliveries anticipated to begin in the first quarter of 2021 – contingent upon regulatory approvals and countries’ readiness for delivery," it said in a statement.

"Today’s announcements offer the clearest pathway yet to end the acute phase of the pandemic by protecting the most vulnerable populations around the world," it added.

New agreements announced on Friday include an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca for 170 million doses, and a memorandum of understanding for 500 million doses from Johnson & Johnson.

Gavi, an alliance of drug companies, governments, international organisations and private charities to develop global vaccine programmes, set up COVAX in April with the WHO to ensure access to poor and middle income countries for COVID-19 shots.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Writing by Peter Graff, Editing by Timothy Heritage)