United Nations
United Nations 30 Sep 2020

Bill Gates on a COVID-19 Vaccine: Equitable Access & the End to the Pandemic

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Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, delivers a video message at the high-level side event "Accelerating the end of the COVID-19 pandemic".

This event hosted by The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the UN Secretary-General aims to build stronger political consensus for a coordinated global response to COVID-19 and champion the importance and urgency of equitable access to new tools, especially effective vaccines. It also seeks to catalyze a step-change in support for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), the most promising solution for global equitable access to the tools needed to accelerate the end of the pandemic.
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The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is a groundbreaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

There is no time to waste in the fight against COVID-19.
No-one is safe until everyone is safe.

Launched at the end of April 2020, at an event co-hosted by the Director-General of the World Health Organization, the President of France, the President of the European Commission, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator brings together governments, scientists, businesses, civil society, and philanthropists and global health organizations (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEPI, FIND, Gavi, The Global Fund, Unitaid, Wellcome, the WHO, and the World Bank).


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A COVID-19 vaccine is in the works — with word from the White House continuing to be one of maximizing efficiency — but as to when it will be available to you depends on a number of factors, like the your health, occupation, and the state you live in.
As the world awaits a COVID-19 vaccine, UNICEF has begun laying the groundwork for the rapid, safe and efficient delivery of the eventual vaccine by purchasing and pre-positioning syringes and other necessary equipment.

As soon as COVID-19 vaccines successfully emerge from trials and are licensed and recommended for use, the world will need as many syringes as doses of vaccine. To begin preparations, this year, UNICEF will stockpile 520 million syringes in its warehouses, part of a larger plan of 1 billion syringes by 2021, to guarantee initial supply and help ensure that syringes arrive in countries before the COVID-19 vaccines.

During 2021, assuming there are enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines, UNICEF anticipates delivering over 1 billion syringes to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts on top of the 620 million syringes that UNICEF will purchase for other vaccination programmes against other diseases such as measles, typhoid and more.

"Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 will be one of the largest mass undertakings in human history, and we will need to move as quickly as the vaccines can be produced," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. "In order to move fast later, we must move fast now. By the end of the year, we will already have over half a billion syringes pre-positioned where they can be deployed quickly and cost effectively. That's enough syringes to wrap around the world one and a half times."

In line with the longstanding collaboration between the two partners, Gavi will reimburse UNICEF for the procurement of the syringes and safety boxes, which shall then be used for the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) and for other Gavi-funded immunization programmes if necessary.

Besides syringes, UNICEF is also buying 5 million safety boxes so that used syringes and needles can be disposed in a safe manner by personnel at health facilities, thus preventing the risk of needle stick injuries and blood borne diseases. Every safety box carries 100 syringes. Accordingly, UNICEF is "bundling" the syringes with safety boxes to ensure enough safety boxes are available to go along with the syringes.

Injection equipment such as syringes and safety boxes have a shelf life of five years. Lead-times for such equipment are also long as these items are bulky and need to be transported by sea freight. Vaccines, which are heat sensitive, are normally transported more quickly by air freight. In addition to saving time, early purchase of syringes and safety boxes also reduces pressure on the market and pre-empts potential early spikes in demand when vaccines do become available.

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