Photo: PAHO. The program will help to make vaccines affordable for even the poorest countries.

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON DC, 12 November 2020—UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced today the launch of a tender inviting all COVID-19 vaccine developers to submit a proposal for supply in 2021.

The purpose of the plan is to make sure that poorer countries are able to obtain COVID-19 vaccines when they become available. This will include a number of Caribbean island nations that might otherwise not be able to afford the vaccines.

The tender, which will run for 6 weeks, aims to provide at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the COVAX Facility, administered by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The aim of the tender is to ensure equitable and accelerated access to quality assured vaccines for the 186 participating economies as of today.

All manufacturers expecting to have supply available by the end of 2021 at the latest are invited to respond to the tender, including those that have already signed advance purchase commitments with Gavi, as well as those with pre-existing agreements with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) on vaccine development.

Matching the unprecedented challenge of addressing the pandemic requires that an innovative procurement process to secure quality-assured COVID-19 vaccines is designed. This entails pooling demand across 186 participants under the COVAX Facility, against which manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines can submit bids, with UNICEF and PAHO joining forces through joint tendering. This will help to optimize supply from a wide array of potential manufacturers using different technology platforms, thereby improving the likelihood of accessing successfully licensed products in the shortest possible time while securing the lowest price on the global market.

Of the 186 participating economies, 92 lower-income economies will receive financial support through the Advance Market Commitment (AMC) of the COVAX Facility. These economies include those defined by the World Bank as low- and lower middle-income economies, as well as economies eligible for international development assistance.

Of the countries that are part of the AMC, UNICEF will take the lead on the purchase of the vaccine for 82 participants outside of the Americas, while PAHO, through its Revolving Fund, will purchase the vaccine for 10 of its Member States in the Americas.

Self-financing economies participating in the COVAX Facility will have the option to buy vaccines themselves – or through UNICEF, and PAHO, based on key terms negotiated via the COVAX Facility. PAHO will purchase on behalf of all interested Member States from the Americas; as of today, 28 self-financing economies have signed agreements with the COVAX Facility.

UNICEF and PAHO will establish long-term agreements to facilitate procurement and delivery but will also identify additional vaccine candidates to be targeted for advance purchase commitments by the COVAX Facility. The WHO framework for fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines will provide guidance on the allocation of supply. Manufacturers will be expected to deliver vaccines as per UNICEF and PAHO terms and conditions for lower-income economies.

Working in coordination with leading regulatory authorities, all vaccines will be endorsed for safety, efficacy, and quality by WHO before delivery. UNICEF and PAHO aim to sign supply arrangements with successful manufacturers to support early access to COVID-19 vaccines.

What is COVAX?

The COVAX initiative is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Gavi vaccine alliance, and the WHO.

It is aimed at ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines across the world, once the vaccines are licensed and approved.

The initiative is part of a larger plan, called the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

As of now, nine CEPI-supported candidate vaccines are included under the initiative.

Further, nine other candidates are under evaluation, and procurement conversations are also underway with additional vaccine producers who are not receiving research and development (R&D) funding through COVAX at the moment.

According to the WHO, COVAX has the world’s “largest and most diverse COVID-19 vaccine portfolio.”