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AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company working with the University of Oxford to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, has announced that it will resume trials of a potential vaccine candidate. The trials were temporarily suspended by the UK drug regulator after a patient reported side-effects from the vaccine. So far, up to 18,000 people from the UK, Brazil, South Africa, and the United States have received the vaccine.
The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine is one of nine candidates being developed under the global COVAX Initiative, which is working to ensure equitable access to any new COVID-19 vaccine. If any of these vaccines are found to be safe, up to 100 million doses will be made available to low- and middle-income economies at just US$3 per dose, through the COVAX Facility.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has expressed disappointment with United States’ absence from the COVAX Facility, an international initiative which contributes to the development a COVID-19 vaccine and funding for low- and middle-income countries. The Trump administration has refused to participate due to the World Health Organization's status as a co-leader.
Solberg acknowledges that although the US is not actively participating, it does provide financial support to several of the implementation partners including Gavi. However, Solberg says, the US's lack of participation weakens COVAX's work.
More than 170 countries are in the process of joining the COVAX Facility program. Among those who support it are several of the US's historic allies, including Japan, Germany, and the European Commission. Norway has also joined.
The European Commission has concluded its exploratory talks with BioNTech-Pfizer, the sixth vaccine manufacturer in its portfolio, on purchasing its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
The contract with BioNTech-Pfizer is expected to include an initial purchase of 200 million doses with an additional 100 million doses optioned if the vaccine is safe and effective. The contract would also include provisions allowing all EU member states to purchase the vaccine, donate vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, or redirect vaccines to other European countries.
Press release - European Commission
German Development Minister Gerd Müller repeated his call for low-income countries to be guaranteed fair access to an eventual COVID-19 vaccine. Given that low-income countries often experience delayed access to vaccines, Müller emphasized that “it has to be different with the COVID-19 vaccine,” so that people all over the globe can have equitable access to the treatment.
To this end, Müller underscored his support for the EU’s Global Response initiative as well as for the joint effort of the international organizations Gavi, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure a fair distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine through the established COVAX Facility.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, launched the first-ever meeting of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Facilitation Council on September 10, 2020. The Facilitation Council will oversee ACT-A’s work towards creating an end-to-end global solution to addressing the COVID-19 crisis by accelerating the development, regulatory approval, manufacturing, delivery, and equitable allocation of COVID-19 medical tools, such as tests, treatments, and vaccines.
The Facilitation Council is composed of representatives from ACT-A founders, governments, civil society, philanthropy and international organizations. It will provide support, guidance, and knowledge sharing for ACT-A’s delivery partners. During its first meeting, both co-hosts called for a significant scale-up in resources to bridge the funding gap of US$35 billion in ACT-A financing needs.
Press release - European Commission
South Korea's Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) announced that the government has joined the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator as a Facilitation Council member. South Korea is one of the eight countries — US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Mexico — in the 'market leader group'.
Following their first meeting on September 10, the ACT-Accelerator Facilitation Council issued a statement committing to:
- Providing continued political leadership to promote international support for the ACT-Accelerator;
- Advocating on behalf of ACT-Accelerator to help secure the financial resources necessary to maximize impact; and
- Fulfilling the commitment of leaving no one behind.
On September 10, 2020, France took part in the first Facilitation Council meeting of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) initiative, a World Health Organization-led coordination mechanism aiming to provide an equitable global distribution of diagnostics, treatments, and a future vaccine, as well as to strengthen healthcare systems.
France was represented by Clément Beaune, the newly appointed Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Other attendees included the presidents of the European Commission, South Africa, and Rwanda, the Norwegian prime minister, and the Director-General of WHO.
France committed €510 million (US$603 million) in May to tackle the pandemic at the global level but has not yet formally joined the COVAX initiative, which aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and guarantee fair and equitable global access.
Despite the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it will terminate its pandemic readiness task force and disburse its functions among various bureaus within the agency. This move comes at the same time as the White House task force has stopped its regular press briefings and as President Trump and many of his aides are downplaying the pandemic ahead of the November elections.
USAID said that some of the functions of the task force will be transferred to a "Covid-19 Readiness Unit" although the details of that initiative remain undefined.
On September 2, 2020, the Dutch Parliament voted to engage with Dutch medical electronics giant Philips to address ventilator shortages in the Netherlands and to examine how these devices could be made available in low-income countries.
Philips has a surplus of almost 30,000 ventilators due to the premature termination of a contract with the United States. Jesse Klaver, leader of the Dutch green-left party (Groen Links) and one of the members of parliament who proposed the motion said during the debate that the COVID1- crisis "called for global solidarity and if there are additional ventilators the company could give them away to developing countries in need.”
After serious criticism of the decision to cut the PREDICT program (an infectious disease research program that was operating globally, including in Wuhan, China) the Trump administration has announced a new program to build upon PREDICT's work. The new initiative, called Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID), will be housed in the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and will receive US$82 million over the next five years.
The PREDICT program was terminated by the Trump administration in October of 2019, just before the outbreak of the global pandemic. In its 10 years of operation under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the program had identified 1,200 different viruses with the potential to spread globally, including 160 novel coronaviruses. CREID will pick up on the work already done, investigating "how and where viruses and other pathogens emerge from wildlife" and cause disease in people, according to the NIH.
The cabinet of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has approved the new 'Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation', which aims to increase Spain’s public and private investments in research and development from the current 1.2% of the gross national income (GNI) to 2.1% of GNI by 2027.
The new strategy outlines six priority areas of intervention: health; culture, creativity, and inclusive society; human security, inequities, and migrations; digitalization, industry, space, and defense; climate change, energy, and mobility; and nutrition and the environment.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, announced that Australia has made sourcing arrangements with two vaccine suppliers at a potential cost of AU$1.7 billion (US$1.2 billion). Subject to the vaccines' approval for use, Australia will source vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, and by CSL and the University of Queensland. If either team is successful in developing a vaccine, 85 million doses of it will be produced in Melbourne.
The vaccines are being sourced to cover Australia's 25 million population but Morrison indicated that Australia is still committed to ensuring vaccine availability for neighbors in South East Asia and the Pacific. Officials have indicated that additional orders may be donated to other countries or sold at the original price.
The European Commission has appointed Norway and South Africa as co-leaders of the ACT Accelerator. The Access to Covid-19 Tools-Accelerator is a global coalition of states, foundations, research institutions, and health organizations. The coalition members have a common goal of fighting COVID-19 and ensuring the fair distribution of vaccines, test equipment, medicine, and other healthcare services.
Norway's main task will be to continue efforts on mobilization, as well as to advise and support the work under the group's four pillars: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and health system strengthening. The newly appointed co-leads will also define an agenda for further work and contribute to efficient coordination between the various stakeholders. Norway will focus on the potential need for political clarifications that may emerge in future in the efforts to combat the pandemic.
The European Commission and the World Health Organization will continue to host the collaborative framework.
The European Commission (EC) has begun negotiations with a seventh pharmaceutical company, Novavax, to advance the purchase of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The EC has already concluded talks with CureVac, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sanofi-GSK, has signed a contract with AstraZeneca, and is still in negotiations with BioNTech/Pfizer.
During a recently held Council videoconference, most EU health ministers supported topping up the Emergency Support Instrument (the fund the EC is using to pay for down payments on vaccine deals) with an additional €750 million (US$887 million) to respond to the Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides’ call for further funds.
News article - Politico
The South Korean Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF) announced that the government will invest a total of US$142 million (KRW170.7 billion) to support domestic research and development (R&D) of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics in 2021.
The total is broken down to include:
- US$110 million (KRW131.4 billion) in support for clinical trials of 12 vaccines and 10 therapeutics;
- US$6 million (KRW7.4 billion) to support non-clinical trial R&D;
- and US$26 million (KRW31.9 billion) to discover candidate materials.
In addition to the R&D support measures, MOEF will also fund infrastructure development for infectious disease research. The 2021 government budget proposal will be deliberated and approved by the National Assembly by early December this year.
The Italian Council of Ministries approved the new triennial guidelines document for 2019-2021. The document outlined Italy's cooperation priorities for the coming years; 75% of Italian cooperation resources will be focused on the priority areas given in the document. The remaining 25% will go toward other sectors and debt treatment operations.
The identified priorities are:
- Food security and nutrition;
- Health (including health system strengthening, the fight against pandemics, access to immunization, and noncommunicable diseases);
- Cultural cooperation and protection of cultural heritage;
- Migration (including strengthening and promoting the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, and facilitating orderly, safe, regular, and responsible migration and mobility of people);
- Protection of the environment (including management of natural resources, and the fight against climate change);
- Inclusive and sustainable growth;
- Fighting against all kind of discrimination;
- Supporting efforts to promote conflict resolution through peace processes; and
- Supporting the global partnership for sustainable development.
The document also identified the 22 priority countries for Italian cooperation, given by region:
- Africa: Egypt, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, and Mozambique;
- Middle East: Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine;
- Balkans: Albania and Bosnia;
- Latin America: Cuba and El Salvador; and
- Asia: Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Pakistan.
The US announced that it will not participate in the international COVAX initiative to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine because the effort is tied to the World Health Organization (WHO). The US, which announced its intent to withdraw from the WHO in July of 2020, said it will continue to work with other international partners, but "will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China."
Such a move will mean that the US is increasingly isolated from the 170 countries involved in COVAX, which is working to ensure worldwide access to an effective vaccine. The US withdrawal from the WHO will take effect in July of 2021, although Democratic candidate Joe Biden has pledged to reverse that decision if he is elected president.
Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) announced that it plans on participating in WHO’s COVID-19 vaccination program, COVAX.
COVAX, led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), is designed to prevent monopolization of vaccines, and helps buy and distribute COVID-19 vaccinations fairly around the world. While Japan has reached agreements with multiple companies, the MHLW stated that the COVAX vaccination program is another means for Japan to acquire vaccines, as well as contribute to the equitable distribution of the vaccine throughout the world.
COVAX aims to procure and deliver 2 billion doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccination by the end of 2021.
The EU announced its participation in the COVAX facility for global, equitable purchasing and procurement of vaccines and contributed €400 million (US$456 million) in guarantees to purchase future COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
COVAX, which is run by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), is the ‘vaccine pillar’ of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to develop, manufacture, and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
Further details on how the EU will participate in COVAX is still being negotiated. The European Commission also plans to continue negotiating complementary bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers for EU markets.
Press release - European Commission
News article - Science|Business