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COVID-19: Germany’s commitment to fair distribution of vaccines

A truck with the German and European Flag and the word COVAX on its front

Distribution of vaccine doses in Vietnam via COVAX, © German Embassy Hanoi

31.08.2022 - Article

Germany is committed to the fair global distribution of vaccines. The fight against the COVID‑19 pandemic is one priority of its G7 Presidency.

The pandemic can only be overcome if it is brought under control all over the world. The German Government thus opted at an early stage to focus on finding joint responses in a spirit of solidarity to the pandemic that continues to rage worldwide. This is also one of the key concerns of the German G7 Presidency. More specifically, Germany is focusing on strengthening the international health architecture and on sustainable global vaccine equality.

At the second virtual Global COVID-19 Summit, organised by the United States, Germany, Belize, Indonesia and Senegal, Foreign Minister Baerbock reaffirmed on 12 May:

The acute phase of the pandemic is not yet over. New waves can hit us at any time. We have to push ahead with the global vaccine rollout, for we will only be safe when all of us are safe.

Germany was one of the founding members of the Country Coordinating Mechanism Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) in April 2020 and remains its second-largest donor, with contributions totalling 3 billion euro so far. Germany’s support is channelled above all through the international COVAX Facility, which is part of the ACT-Accelerator and has to date distributed more than 1.6 billion doses to over 146 countries and territories.

Global vaccination rate remains below expectations

In spite of these efforts, vaccination rates in many countries do not meet the targets set by the World Health Organization (WHO). The reasons for this are varied, ranging from poor healthcare structures and inadequate information campaigns to insufficient logistics on the ground. That is why the German Government is funnelling the lion’s share of its contribution to the ACT-Accelerator this year to the Last Mile initiative. The aim is to help countries with low vaccination rates ensure that the vaccines supplied are actually used and get through to everyone who needs them.

The initiative adopts a multi-pronged approach. On the one hand, it tackles misinformation and warns people of the dangers of catching COVID-19, so that more people decide to get vaccinated. On the other hand, it is also helping to train health professionals, improve vaccine cold chains and storage options, and supply the necessary syringes, needles and protective equipment. The Federal Foreign Office is cooperating with partners such as UNICEF in this connection.

Germany has donated around 119 million vaccine doses so far

Since August 2021, the German Government has also been donating vaccines from its own supply agreements which are not needed for its national vaccination campaign. All in all, Germany has donated and delivered approximately 119 million doses since the start of the pandemic – the majority of them (some 111 million doses) through COVAX. Via bilateral channels, it has donated a total of around 8 million doses to Egypt, Ghana, Namibia, Thailand, Ukraine and Viet Nam.

The EU plans to donate at least 700 million doses. The G7 countries have already exceeded their target of providing 870 million doses by the end of 2022: they had made available more than 1.175 billion doses by June 2022. Most of these donations are going to COVAX, which ensures they are distributed fairly around the world.

Germany is engaged – worldwide

Germany and the EU are furthermore actively working to promote the production of vaccines in Africa in particular. For there are hardly any vaccine production capacities on the African continent at present. Only 1% of the vaccines used there is currently produced locally. The African Union (AU) has therefore set itself the goal of developing its own vaccine production – not only for COVID-19 vaccines. By 2040, 60% of the continent’s own needs in terms of routine vaccines are to be produced locally. Germany is supporting this project with more than 550 million euro as well as through KfW promotional loans and financing for companies from the German Investment and Development Company. For example, as one of the leading bilateral donors Germany has provided 35.7 million euro for training experts in Rwanda and strengthening the country’s competent regulatory authority. Rwanda is seeking to establish itself as an African centre for vaccine production. In 2021, the country signed a declaration of intent with BioNTech on the creation of a modular facility (BioNTainer) for the production of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, malaria and tuberculosis. The first sod for the facility was turned on 23 June 2022 and the BioNTainers are due to arrive at the end of the year.

With a view to learning from the pandemic and boosting global pandemic resilience in the future, Germany is also calling for the global health architecture with the WHO at its heart to be strengthened. Under WHO auspices, an international negotiating body is currently discussing a new agreement on the handling of pandemics; in addition, Germany is actively involved in discussions on the reform of the International Health Regulations. In order to put an end to the existing shortfalls in financing, Germany has provided 50 million euro this year for a new fund for pandemic prevention and preparedness.

COVAX FAQs

The COVAX Facility aims to ensure the fair worldwide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and, in particular, is tasked with providing vaccines for the world’s poorest 92 countries. Donated vaccines are a key component of the global vaccine supply. To make sure that the donated vaccines are made available to other countries as quickly as possible and are distributed according to need, the COVAX Facility collects and coordinates the vaccine donations for the participating countries (you will find information on the exact process below). In order to optimise the donation process and to facilitate planning for the recipient countries, COVAX works closely together with manufacturers and donor countries.

With a view to ensuring a smooth vaccination process on the ground, COVAX and its partners also support countries with weak healthcare systems in preparing their vaccine rollouts, including through providing training for healthcare professionals and information for national decision-makers. Furthermore, countries can apply for additional funding via the COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Support (CDS) Programme to finance the distribution of vaccines, that can be used, for example, for cold chains or communication campaigns. The programme has 822 million US dollars at its disposal, of which 180 million euro were provided by Germany in 2021.

Through their vaccine donations, donor countries help ensure poorer countries have faster and better access to vaccines, thus also contributing towards fair global distribution. Around 45% of the vaccine doses distributed by COVAX are donated. In principle, only vaccines with an emergency-use listing from the World Health Organization (WHO), i.e. which have been classified as safe and effective against COVID-19, can be donated via COVAX. In addition, only vaccines which are still in the hands of the manufacturers can be given to other countries via COVAX.

COVAX and the donor countries work closely together to make the donation process simple and efficient. To this end, COVAX and its partners have developed principles for vaccine donations, which the German Government also uses as guidelines. They include the greatest possible planning certainty with regard to the donations, for example through adequate notice. That enables COVAX and the recipient countries to make the necessary preparations and lowers transport costs. As a rule, vaccines are donated without a stipulated purpose in order to ensure the flexible and fair distribution of doses. Furthermore, the donated doses should, if possible, have a shelf life of at least ten weeks on arrival in the recipient country.

The donation process consists of several steps which have to be completed for each new donation pledge.

The first step is the donation pledge and acceptance. The vaccine manufacturer informs the donor country that it has been allocated doses to be donated. If the donor country decides to donate these doses via COVAX, it informs COVAX of the details of the donation (e.g. vaccine manufacturer, number of doses). COVAX must then formally accept this donation and inform the vaccine manufacturer.

In the next step, it is decided which countries are to receive what volume of doses. COVAX allocates the donation to a potential recipient country. This is done on the basis of the distribution mechanism developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the fair global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The distribution mechanism takes into account a country’s vaccination rate, acute need based on the severity of the pandemic in the respective country, as well as a country’s ability to use the doses quickly.

COVAX informs the recipient countries of the allocation and they prepare for the deliveries in the third step. This also includes administrative aspects such as the necessary import papers.

The last step is the delivery, which is normally carried out by UNICEF. UNICEF is responsible for all the logistics, in particular the proper transport of the doses while maintaining the necessary cold chain.

The length of the process depends in particular on the vaccine manufacturer, the reaction of the recipient countries as well as UNICEF’s transport logistics.

As soon as the vaccines have arrived in the recipient countries, the countries themselves are responsible for storage, further distribution and the maintenance of the cold chains. If needed, COVAX and its partners assist the countries with the further distribution (see above under tasks of COVAX).

To date, Germany has donated and supplied a total of around 119 million doses to 46 countries, of which 8 million doses were donated bilaterally and 111 million via COVAX, mainly to countries of the Global South, particularly in Africa and Asia. Germany is thus the biggest donor of vaccines in the EU and the second largest in the world after the United States. The German Government is prepared to donate more doses as required and in line with the vaccination capacity in the recipient countries. However, the global supply of vaccines greatly exceeds the demand at present. COVAX is therefore not accepting any more vaccine donations at the moment.

For more information:

ACT Accelerator

COVAX Facility

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