The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that the availability of a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 is well-recognized as an additional tool to contribute to the control of the pandemic, while simultaneously recognising that the challenges and efforts needed to rapidly develop, evaluate and produce this at scale are enormous.
On 24 April, the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted the launch of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a new global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. Within the Accelerator, Gavi, CEPI, and WHO together with multinational and developing country vaccine manufacturers are working on the COVAX (vaccine) Pillar to develop the COVAX Facility.
The Facility provides governments with the opportunity to benefit from a large portfolio of COVID-19 candidate vaccines using a range of technology platforms, produced by more manufacturers across the world, with a bigger market to provide security of demand – often with greater scope than governments or regional groups can support on their own. Even where governments already have access to a portfolio of candidate vaccines, it acts as an insurance policy through economies of scale and portfolio diversification.
Ireland has signed an expression of Interest letter indicating interest in participating in the Covax Facility, and accordingly in procuring vaccines from the Facility for the country.
In addition, to ensure that Europeans have access to a vaccine in a timely and fair manner, the European Commission proposes to conclude a number of advance purchase agreements with vaccine manufacturers. The contracts with companies would take the form of Advance Purchase Agreements (APAs) and would be concluded through a procurement process run by the Commission on behalf of all participating Member States. The related funding would come from the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI). The budgetary authorities, the European Parliament and the Council, have made EUR 2.7 billion available under the ESI. The Commission stands ready to commit the large majority of those funds to APA-related activities.
This process will respect the principle of subsidiarity and Member States competences as the central procurement action would only conclude the APAs with all relevant conditions, whereas the actual purchase and subsequent use of the vaccines product under the resulting framework contract would remain under the responsibility of the individual Member States.
A Steering Board has been established to run the procurement centrally and efficiently. The SB is chaired by the Commission and includes senior officials from all interested Member States to assist and provide guidance throughout the evaluation process. Ireland is represented on the Steering Board. For full transparency, the Commission proposes to report regularly to the Integrated Crisis Political Response (IPCR) on overall progress more generally.