An additional €500 million has been donated by the European Union (EU) to the COVAX initiative, effectively doubling its contribution to €1 billion towards ensuring populations in middle and low-income nations are vaccinated against COVID-19.
The COVAX initiative is a global collaboration to ensure rapid and equal access to COVID-19 treatment and vaccinations in developing countries, most of which are in Africa.
The world’s wealthier nations have been on the receiving end of criticism from organisations, including the United Nations (UN), over buying and hoarding vaccines, limiting the chance for lower-income countries to gain fair access to vaccinations.
The €500 million contribution comprises funding from a new €300 million EU grant and €200 in guarantees by the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+), the Union said.
“Through these contributions, the Commission and its partners will secure purchase options for future COVID-19 vaccines for all the participants in the facility,” it added.
“Vaccines will be procured and delivered to countries by the UNICEF Supply Division and the PAHO’s Revolving Fund for Access to Vaccines.”
“The fast arrival of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines has shown that multilateralism and multi-actor partnerships work to solve the most pressing problems of our time.”
Ursula von der Leyen, the EU president, made the contribution known during the G7 virtual summit on Friday.
Europe has been one of the main contributors to COVAX, contributing over €2.2 billion in a bid to achieve the target of delivering 1.3 billion doses to 92 countries by the end of the year.
“Last year, as part of our Coronavirus Global Response, we committed to ensuring universal access to vaccines everywhere on earth, for everyone who would need them,” von der Leyen explained.
“COVAX is best placed to help us reach this goal. This is why we decided to double the European Commission’s contribution to COVAX to €1 billion.”
“With this new financial boost, we want to make sure vaccines are soon delivered to low and middle-income countries. Because we will only be safe if the whole world is safe,” she added.
Jutta Urpilainen, the EU’s Commissioner for International Partnerships, equally reiterated the Union’s goals to see partners in Africa and across the world also have access to effective COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are in a race against the virus, and COVAX is our best hope for all our partners,” Urpilainen said.
“The EU has been leading efforts to guarantee that collectively we ensure that COVID-19 vaccines become a global public good. This is why today we are doubling our support to COVAX.”
Stella Kyriakides, the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said the EU has invested almost €3 billion for the production of “safe and effective” vaccines, which are now being used to vaccinate not just citizens of the EU, but populations worldwide.