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COVAX agreement between 190 countries is misconstrued as that for the vaccine being developed in India

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A post claiming that 190 countries have pre-booked the Bharat Biotech COVID-19 vaccine, which is being developed in India is being shared on social media. This is being touted as the Modi government’s success. Through this article let’s fact-check the claim made in the post.

The archived version of the post can be seen here.    

Claim: 190 countries have pre-booked the Bharat Biotech COVID-19 vaccine that India has developed.

Fact: Covaxin which is being developed by Bharat Biotech is the only indigenous vaccine that is approved for emergency use. It is not currently distributed among other countries as Bharat Biotech is not among the signatories under the COVAX Facility. The COVAX agreement is to facilitate vaccine distribution to the 190 participating countries in which Serum Institute is a signatory. This is being misconstrued as 190 countries have pre-booked the Bharat Biotech COVID-19 vaccine developed in India. Hence the claim made in the post is MISLEADING.

COVAX:

In order to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 and to ensure everyone in the world has access to the vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Access to COVID-19 tools (ACT) Accelerator in April 2020, which facilitates global collaboration on equitable access to tests, treatments, and vaccines against COVID-19. Further, the ACT-Accelerator is divided into four pillars of work – diagnostics, treatment, vaccines and strengthening health systems.

COVAX, one of the pillars under the ACT which deals with vaccine research, development, and manufacturing of a wide range of COVID-19 vaccine candidates and negotiate their pricing was launched by WHO, European Commission and France in response to this pandemic. COVAX is expected to achieve this with the Coordination of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. The initial aim is to have 2 billion doses available by the end of 2021. COVAX is the only global initiative that is working with multiple governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.

Within the COVAX pillar, Gavi which deals with the procurement and delivery of vaccine for COVAX has created a COVAX Facility which acts like a pooled procurement mechanism. This is to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines which is not based on countries’ relative wealth. The facility is reinforced by the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which provides funding for vaccines for lower-income countries who have engaged in the COVAX Facility. On the other hand, CEPI deals with vaccine research and development portfolio for COVAX. Until now CEPI has invested in 10 vaccine candidates. Of these, 9 are still in development and 7 are in clinical trials.

COVAX has agreements in place with 190 participating and eligible economies to access nearly 2 billion doses of vaccine candidates in the first half of 2021. Gavi aims to facilitate at least 1.3 billion doses to 92 eligible economies under Gavi COVAX AMC.

Bharat Biotech’s Vaccine being developed in India:

India’s Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) on 02 January 2021 has announced the formal approval for restricted use in emergency situations of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech. Serum Institute of India (SII) has signed an agreement with Gavi and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation under COVAX facility to manufacture 200 million doses of the vaccine developed by the Oxford-AstraZeneca. Under this agreement, vaccine doses will be supplied to all the 190 participating countries. From this, it is evident that SII is a manufacturing partner for Oxford-AstraZeneca under the COVAX agreement.

Covaxin which is being developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR and National Institute of Virology (NIV) is the only indigenous vaccine that has been approved for emergency use. However, this has not been featured in any of the lists of agreements by COVAX and CEPI, which means the vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech may not be distributed to other countries part of this agreement. The COVAX agreement to facilitate vaccine distribution between the 190 participating countries in which SII is a signatory is misconstrued as 190 countries having pre-booked the Bharat Biotech vaccine developed in India.

To sum it up, the COVAX agreement to facilitate vaccine distribution between the 190 participating countries in which SII is a signatory is misconstrued as 190 countries having pre-booked the Bharat Biotech vaccine developed in India.

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