Cayman has signed up for the global COVAX facility which will allow for access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are developed and approved, Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said on Tuesday.

The initiative, which is backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with a number of agencies, including the World Health Organization, is designed to ensure countries, rich or poor, have the same access to vaccines.

Seymour, speaking at Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing at the Government Administration Building, said, “Cayman Islands is one of 150 countries that has expressed an interest in the purchase of COVID vaccines through joining the COVAX family.”

He described COVAX as a mechanism designed to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

“These vaccines will be delivered equally to all participating countries, proportionate to the populations,” he said, adding that, initially, there will be prioritisation of healthcare workers and vulnerable populations.

It will then expand to cover 20% of the population.

“Each person is likely to require two doses of the vaccine. The approximate cost of each dose is $10,” Seymour said.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations; and WHO, “working in partnership with developed and developing countries’ vaccine manufacturers,” the health minister said.

“In addition to this, the Cayman Islands is also looking forward to the support of the United Kingdom in procuring vaccines for Cayman as part of its support for the Overseas Territories,” Seymour added.

The race to find a vaccine continues globally.

However, Seymour said, through the COVAX initiative, the aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and guarantee equal access for every country in the world.

“The goal of COVAX is by the end of 2021 to deliver 2 billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval or World Health Organization pre-qualification,” he said.

Once secured, the vaccines will be delivered equally to all participating countries under agreed terms.

“Further doses will then be made available based on country need, vulnerability and COVID-19 threat. The COVAX Facility will also maintain a buffer of doses for emergency and humanitarian use, including dealing with severe outbreaks before they spiral out of control,” a 15 July WHO statement on the initiative said.

Countries that have submitted expressions of interest include Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the UK.

On Monday, WHO reported that 172 economies are now engaged in discussions to potentially participate in COVAX.

“COVAX currently has the world’s largest and most diverse COVID-19 vaccine portfolio – including nine candidate vaccines, with a further nine under evaluation and conversations underway with other major producers,” it said.

The WHO release added that in order to be able to secure enough doses of vaccines to protect the most vulnerable populations, “the next step for the partnership is to confirm potential self-financing participants’ intent to participate by 31 August and to turn these into binding commitments to join the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) by 18 September, with first upfront payments to follow thereafter, and no later than 9 October 2020”.

WHO said governments, vaccine manufacturers, organisations and individuals have committed US$1.4 billion towards vaccine research and development so far, “but an additional US$1 billion is urgently needed to continue to move the portfolio forward”.

Related story: COVID-19: The race for a vaccine is just the start

 

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now