GAVI financing to allow for immediate funds for next pandemic

A member of the National Guard looks on as a batch of AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines, delivered under the COVAX scheme, is unloaded from a KLM Boeing 787 at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, Mexico May 27, 2021. REUTERS/Henny Romero/File Photo

Sept 20 (Reuters) - Global vaccine alliance GAVI has set up financial instruments that will allow the group to immediately access pledged donor funding if it needs to buy vaccines for future pandemics, Chief Executive Seth Berkley told Reuters.

Berkley said that in 2020 and 2021, GAVI was limited in its ability to buy COVID-19 vaccines because even though donors had committed $2.4 billion, the vaccine alliance only had $400 million in cash on hand.

"The idea would be to have enough to jumpstart it," Berkley said. "We've now put in a series of really interesting instruments. Some here in the U.S., some in Europe, that allow us to front-load donor funding... we can then go ahead and make those commitments and start spending, knowing that those donors' funds will come."

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GAVI announced a similar mechanism as part of its COVID response in April.

GAVI and the World Health Organization ran the global COVAX program intended to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to the world's poorer countries. COVAX has delivered more than 1.72 billion vaccine doses to 146 countries.

Still, the group struggled to acquire enough vaccines to distribute in the first half of 2021, Berkley said, as countries including the United States, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom held tight to supplies manufactured in their own countries.

"All across the world, there were countries saying we're only going to take care of ourselves first," he said.

He said that for future pandemics it will be important to increase and diversify the number of manufacturing sites, perhaps with an eye toward building up capacity in smaller countries such as Singapore and Rwanda, which could reduce the impact of vaccine nationalism.

Improved output from manufacturers has led to a glut of vaccine in 2022. COVAX has been negotiating since June with vaccine manufacturers to cut or slow deliveries of 400 million to 600 million vaccine doses. read more COVAX already has 300 to 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses available if countries need more supply, Berkley said.

"Those negotiations haven't been finalized completely," Berkley said on Monday, noting that it could be "weeks to months" before talks have finished.

"Some manufacturers have been fabulous, and have worked with us and been helpful, and some have not been so helpful," he said.

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Reporting by Michael Erman. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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