COVAX: First step in long-haul for COVID-19 free world
World Insight with Tian Wei

China has become the latest country to join the COVID-19 vaccine initiative known as COVAX. The COVAX facility, led by the World Health Organization, CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness), and GAVI (The Vaccine Alliance), aims to deliver 2 billion doses of COVID vaccine by the end of 2021. The initiative ensures that research, purchase, and distribution of vaccines are equally shared between the world's rich and poor nations.

"COVAX is not too big to fail. But it is too important to fail," says Jerome Kim, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute. In an in-depth interview with CGTN host Tian Wei, he explains how the COVAX facility works and what China's role could be.

The ideal scenario for COVAX would be for party states to receive 20 percent of their need at the end of 2021. China's commitment to COVAX allays the prior concerns that the two largest economies were not yet participating: "China and the U.S. are drivers of innovation. For their part, Chinese vaccines are among candidates in Phase III trials. And we are expecting safe and efficacious vaccines by the end of the year. As per the U.S., they put 10.3 billion U.S. dollars in advanced vaccine testing in its own country, and secured 1.6 billion doses for domestic use."

Kim elaborates that if we don't have an equitable distribution method, we could see twice the number of anticipated deaths globally. China's commitment is an important first step, especially since there may be multiple vaccines contributed by China that could be eligible for participation in COVAX.

The notion that nations overcome transnational challenges better when working together is not rhetorical in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even under COVAX's best-case scenario, where a large number of vaccines could be available in late 2021, Kim says we are still not in a safe world. He warns, "For herd immunity to be established assumes that the vaccines will generate herd immunity. And herd immunity could take a few years to reach if it's reached at all." The ability to generate herd immunity will be key evidence in combating COVID-19.

The litany of uncertainties is also due to the accelerated process of vaccine development. Kim says, "What is normally a five to ten-year process is now condensed to 12-18 months." This accelerated schedule means that vaccines can't be optimized and may have to receive subsequent studies. The numerous vaccine options also raise questions on mixing vaccines, optimizing doses, and scheduling boosters. The uncertainties around this condensed vaccine development for this novel virus signal the necessity of a unified vaccine research and distribution initiative.

The lure of a vaccine is palpable, especially with some countries registering hundreds of thousands of fatalities. A vaccine may be less a quick-fix, but certainly can be more of a flashlight to get out of the woods.

World Insight with Tian Wei is an international platform for debate and intelligent discussion. It is the meeting point of both the highly influential and rising voices, facilitated by host Tian Wei. It provides nutrition to form your own thoughts and ideas through a 45-minute live debate and interviews.

Schedule: Monday-Saturday

Time (GMT): 1415, 2015

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