IATE Term of the Week: COVAX Facility


COVID-19 does not consider borders between countries, and the invention of an effective vaccine is one of the biggest challenges worldwide. To address the spread of the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO), together with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and UNICEF, developed the initiative “Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access” (COVAX) and its procurement mechanism COVAX Facility, which allocates vaccines across the globe.

How does COVAX Facility work?

Some countries have arranged bilateral vaccine deals with individual manufacturers to secure vaccine supplies, thereby protecting the population directly. However, the risk of such bilateral transactions is high, as the effectiveness of any vaccine in the early development stage is low. There are more than 170 vaccine candidates currently, but it is likely that most of them will not be approved. The only opportunity to succeed is to give countries access to a portfolio of vaccine candidates based on a range of vaccine approaches.

COVAX Facility is the joint mechanism allowing all participating countries, regardless of income levels, to benefit from the most extensive portfolio of vaccine candidates so that populations can get early access to reliable vaccines. If one of the vaccines is not approved, participating countries will be guaranteed to get other effective vaccines. Once vaccines are approved, distribution between self-financing and funded countries will occur under conditions of fair and equal access.

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Why is COVAX Facility crucial in the battle against the pandemic?

The global pandemic already caused significant economic and societal damages in all corners of the world, and now all countries are putting their efforts together to confront this health emergency. COVAX Facility was developed to end the acute phase of the pandemic. The main objective of the COVAX Facility is to give quick access to vaccine doses to people from both self-financing and funded countries in a fair way. COVAX Facility aims to distribute 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. So far, more than 49 million vaccines have been shared via COVAX Facility. 

How will vaccine doses be distributed?

Once any of the COVAX portfolio vaccines have successfully undergone clinical tests, proving to be reliable and effective, doses will be distributed between all participating countries. 5% of the whole number of doses will be saved to prevent sudden acute outbreaks of the virus and be available to organisations supporting vulnerable social groups, such as refugees. No country will receive vaccine doses for more than 20% of its population until all participating countries are offered the same proportion of vaccines. The only exception is made for countries that have asked for a number of vaccines for less than 20% of their population.

Fair and simultaneous access to lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines gives hope to overcome the pandemic and rebuild economies. COVAX Facility is an essential step towards achieving this global goal.


BBC News. 2021. Covax: How will Covid vaccines be shared around the world? [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-55795297 [Accessed 12 May 2021].

World Health Organisation. 2021. COVAX. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator/covax [Accessed 12 May 2021].

World Health Organisation. 2021. COVAX Facility background. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/act-accelerator/covax/covax-facility-background.pdf?sfvrsn=810d3c22_2 [Accessed 12 May 2021].

Gavi.org. 2021. COVAX Facility. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.gavi.org/covax-facility [Accessed 12 May 2021].

Gavi.org. 2021. COVAX explained. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/covax-explained [Accessed 12 May 2021].

Vfa.de. 2021. Worldwide access to Corona vaccines: How the COVAX Facility works. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.vfa.de/de/englische-inhalte/covax-facility-en [Accessed 12 May 2021].

Time. 2021. The World Isn’t Getting Vaccinated Fast Enough. [ONLINE] Available at: https://time.com/6047516/covax-covid-19-vaccine-access/ [Accessed 12 May 2021].

Written by Olena Khomiakova, Schuman Communication Trainee Terminology Coordination Unit. Currently she is enrolled as a Master student in Learning and Communications in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg.