Singapore in multilateral initiative to secure Covid-19 vaccine doses

Early-stage trials for three potential vaccines have yielded positive results. The Straits Times speaks to Dr Jerome Kim, the director-general of the International Vaccine Institute, about the recent findings.
Singapore is one of 75 nations in a multilateral initiative that will ensure the Republic gets access to vaccine doses.
Singapore is one of 75 nations in a multilateral initiative that will ensure the Republic gets access to vaccine doses.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Global anticipation for a Covid-19 vaccine has heightened in the light of promising findings from early-stage human trials.

And while experts say more studies are needed and that a commercially available vaccine could still be more than a year away, nations around the world are looking to secure sufficient doses to inoculate their populations ahead of time.

Singapore is one of 75 nations in a multilateral initiative that will ensure the Republic gets access to vaccine doses.

A spokesman for the Health Ministry told The Sunday Times that Singapore was among the first countries to submit an expression of interest to join the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) Facility on June 25.

The Covax financing scheme will enable fast and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for the 75 countries, as well as 90 poorer countries supported under this scheme. It is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the World Health Organisation (WHO); and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Working with multinational and developing country vaccine manufacturers, the Covax Facility aims to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO pre-qualification by the end of next year.

"These vaccines will be delivered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations, initially prioritising healthcare workers then expanding to cover 20 per cent of the population of participating countries," said the WHO.

The Covax Facility also includes an additional mechanism called the Covax Advance Market Commitment (AMC) which aims to incentivise vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of eventual Covid-19 vaccines, and to ensure access for developing countries.

The WHO said the 75 countries which have submitted expressions of interest to join the Covax Facility would finance the vaccines from their own public finance budgets. "(They) partner with up to 90 lower-income countries that could be supported through voluntary donations to the AMC," added the global health body.

 
 
 
 

Together, the 165 countries represent more than 60 per cent of the world's population, WHO said.

The AMC aims to raise US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) - enough for Gavi-supported countries to immunise healthcare workers as well as high-risk individuals, and create a flexible buffer of doses to be deployed where needed most.

The Covax Facility is part of a broader WHO initiative aimed at fostering global collaboration to accelerate development, production and equitable access to Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

There are 25 candidate vaccines around the world that are currently undergoing clinical evaluation - including one co-developed by researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore - with 141 more at the pre-clinical phase.

In a Skype interview with The Sunday Times, Dr Jerome Kim, the director-general of the International Vaccine Institute, said it was inevitable that vaccine nationalism will occur.

The non-profit institute, which champions vaccination for global health, was initiated by the United Nations Development Programme and established in 1997.

There are countries that are investing in vaccine development, Dr Kim noted, and they may have an expectation of reciprocity.

He cited the United States' Operation Warp Speed initiative to accelerate the development of a vaccine. The federal government has poured US$10 billion into the initiative.

"The countries that are paying to develop these vaccines, the countries that are putting a lot of funding behind rapid vaccine development, are going to see some preference," said Dr Kim.

But multilateral solutions, such as the Covax Facility, could help, he said. "That kind of multilateral mechanisms hopefully will counteract some of the negative effects that are going to be created inadvertently by vaccine nationalism," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 26, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore in multilateral initiative to secure vaccine doses'. Subscribe