Pfizer-BioNTech to supply vaccine to COVAX scheme: Sources

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Pfizer and BioNTech have agreed to be part of the World Health Organization (WHO) co-led the COVAX vaccine access scheme by supplying their COVID-19 vaccine, as per two sources familiar with the deal.

The deal regarding the latest shots to be included in the project aimed at lower-income countries is expected to be announced soon, according to the sources, who declined to reveal their identity.

BioNTech and Pfizer refused to comment. Spokespeople for the WHO and the GAVI vaccine alliance, which co-leads the COVAX scheme, also declined to respond to the matter.

The details on the size of the deal or the price per dose COVAX would pay were not clear, but the sources state that the allotment would likely be relatively small, as the doses were primarily meant for healthcare workers in the countries under the COVAX scheme.

Senior WHO adviser Bruce Aylward earlier stated that “the COVAX scheme was in very detailed discussions with Pfizer, which has already committed hundreds of millions of doses to several wealthy nations and expected to be able to include the vaccine in COVAX very soon.”

The COVAX scheme is all ready to commence distributing COVID-19 vaccines to poor and middle-income countries by February and the facility has said it hopes to deliver over 2 billion doses across the world this year. In an updated forecast, it said it has planned to deliver around 1.8 billion doses in 2021 to 92 poorer countries, covering around 27 percent of their populations.

The scheme led by the WHO, the GAVI vaccine alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was established last year amid concerns that poorer nations would lose out while rich countries raced to procure shots to vaccinate their populations.

Till now the scheme has secured future vaccine supplies from AstraZeneca, working with Oxford University, the Serum Institute of India (SII) as well as Sanofi and its partner GSK. It also has entered into a memorandum of understanding over deliveries from Johnson & Johnson.

The Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is the only shot so far to have WHO emergency use listing approval. As per reports, the global organization is currently planning to approve several COVID-19 vaccines from Western and Chinese manufacturers in the coming weeks and months as it aims for rapid rollouts in poorer countries.

BioNTech and Pfizer said this month they were aiming to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses this year, up from a previous goal of 1.3 billion. Their shot is more complicated to store and transport as it requires ultra-cold freezers, which may not be feasible for poorer countries.