EXPLAINER: What is the COVAX Facility?

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Anti-vaccine disinformation has been amplified with COVID-19, so it’s critical to communicate clearly on the topic of COVID-19 related vaccines.

During the State House COVID-19 public briefing broadcast of Friday, 28 August 2020, on the extension of Stage 3 regulations, health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula stated that Namibia was part of the international vaccine effort known as the COVAX Facility. 

Shangula stated:

“The subject of a COVID-19 vaccine has also become topical. On this, I wish to state that Namibia has been engaging the international community regarding the development of a COVID-19 vaccine in recent months and weeks. Through the COVAX Facility, we have participated in several meetings and interactions on this matter. More information will be provided to the public in the coming weeks through regular updates on this process. As we pursue this matter, we are motivated by one thing and one thing only: to ensure that when a safe and effective vaccine becomes available, the Namibian people should be able to access it.”

– Dr Kalumbi Shangula, Namibian health minister

However, many Namibians will not have heard of the COVAX Facility before and not much else was said about the facility at the 28 August 2020 public briefing or in the days immediately following the health minister’s statement.

What is the COVAX Facility?

The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was initiated by the Word Health Organisation (WHO) and international partners on 24 April 2020 as a pillar of the COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is “a new global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines”.

A backgrounder on the COVAX Facility describes it as follows:

“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.”

The background document also states:

“The Facility also contributes to a global scale-up of vaccines and therefore to controlling the pandemic. In its first phase up until the end of 2021, the Facility aims to secure 2 billion doses of vaccines. The second phase from 2022-2025 will see additional supply availability.The Facility is reinforced by the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) which provides funding for vaccines for lower income countries, creating scale and therefore making the Facility more attractive to manufacturers who will benefit from an orderly market, as well as creating the opportunity to tackle the pandemic around the world.”

For more information on the COVAX Facility also read this or visit this WHO webpage about the COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

Note to Namibian health authorities: When introducing a new topic into public health discussions around COVID-19, provide additional information beyond just announcing something new that many listeners / viewers might not have heard of before. This will help in mitigating disinformation.