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Why We Need Equitable Vaccine Delivery Now

September 22, 2021

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Stopping the spread of the coronavirus means making sure that people everywhere are protected. That's the governing principle behind the COVAX Facility, a groundbreaking multilateral initiative aimed at guaranteeing that COVID-19 vaccines are distributed equitably worldwide.


As a key partner in COVAX, UNICEF is leveraging 75 years of expertise building a global health network for children to coordinate delivery of COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than 180 countries, including humanitarian settings and war zones.


Vaccine equity makes a return to normal life possible:


To date, COVAX has shipped more than 301 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 141 participants. Yet vaccine hoarding and manufacturing delays have kept the access gap between rich and poor nations vast: Only 20 percent of people living in low- and lower-middle-income countries have received a first dose of vaccine, compared to 80 percent in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Nowhere is that inequity more acute than in Africa, where less than 4 percent of the population — 50 million people — have been fully vaccinated.

A stark imbalance: Africa urgently needs more COVID-19 vaccine doses

"Access to COVID-19 vaccines has been unjust and unfair, with people in Africa bearing the brunt of this inequality. This cannot continue,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “UNICEF is a staunch partner of the African continent with a long history of delivering vaccines everywhere they are needed."



On September 17, 2021, 124,500 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by Norway through the COVAX Facility arrive at the airport in Lusaka, Zambia. © UNICEF/UN0522493/James



The novel coronavirus has killed more than 4.7 million people since it began its sweep around the globe in 2020. Without equitable access to vaccines, more people will continue to die of COVID-19, including humanitarian aid workers. "UNICEF has not been spared," said Gabriele Fontana, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Advisor for Health. "We are losing colleagues, we are losing relatives ... When you see your colleagues dying, when they could have been vaccinated, it's not easy." 

COVAX's mission to vaccinate the world is more essential than ever

The greater the number of people who are fully vaccinated, the slower the rate of transmission is likely to  be. A robust vaccination rate also protects against the rise of highly transmissible variants. COVAX's mission to vaccinate the world is more essential — and more urgent — than ever. UNICEF Is a key part of that mission, leading on procurement and supply. Updating cold chain storage facilities, providing training and equipment to transport vaccines safely, delivering PPE and syringes, coordinating community outreach programs to fight misinformation and educate the public on the safety and efficacy of vaccines — UNICEF is working on all fronts to help end the pandemic.



In Nepal's far western Doti district, UNICEF-supported health worker Ravi Chhayajyoti walks to a remote vaccination center carrying COVID-19 vaccines donated to Nepal by the U.S. Government through the COVAX Facility. © UNICEF/UN0501467/Prasad Ngakhusi


On September 20, 2021, India announced plans to resume exports of COVID-19 vaccines, prioritizing COVAX and neighboring countries first as supplies rise. India, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, had to stop exports in April after the country was hit by a crushing wave of COVID-19 infections — as many as 400,000 new confirmed cases per day. 


According to its latest supply forecast, COVAX expects to have access to 1.4 billion vaccine doses in 2021. Of these doses, 1.2 million will be available for lower-income countries, enough to protect 20 percent of the population, or 40 percent of all adults, in the 92 economies, with the exception of India, participating in the COVAX Advance Market Commitment. More than 200 million doses will be allocated for self-financing participants. At the September 2021 Global COVID-19 Summit, the U.S. Government pledged to donate an additional 500 million doses to be delivered through COVAX in 2022, along with further commitments from UN member states including Japan, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Denmark. 


Equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is within our grasp. We have proven that the world can rally to do the unthinkable, and we need to do it again. — UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore


“The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear to us all that no one is safe until everyone is safe. But equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is within our grasp," said Fore. "We have proven that the world can rally to do the unthinkable, and we need to do it again. The sooner we do, the sooner our lives, and the lives of our children, will go back to normal.”


UNICEF is working night and day to ensure that low- and lower-middle-income countries have access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, while continuing to help children around the world survive and thrive. Join the global fight to end the pandemic.


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Top photo: Nilam Bamaniya, a 23-year-old general nursing midwife, holds a vaccine carrier filled with vaccine doses for a COVID-19 vaccination session at a UNICEF-supported public health center in Samlaya, Vadodra, Gujarat, India on July 20, 2021. © UNICEF/UN0500645/ Bhardwaj. Video by Tong Su for UNICEF USA