More funds approved for COVAX vaccines, tighter access planned - statement

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Workers offload the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines under the COVAX scheme against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Aden Abdulle Osman Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

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GENEVA, June 25 (Reuters) - The board of the GAVI vaccine alliance has approved a further $775 million to fund the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income economies over the next two years, as it plans to accelerate the rollout, it said on Friday.

The total funds available to cover the cost of delivering the vaccines will rise to $925 million, GAVI said in a statement issued after a two-day board meeting.

COVAX, run jointly with the World Health Organization, has delivered 90 million doses to 132 countries since February, but has faced major supply issues since India suspended vaccine exports.

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It is scaling up and now estimates that its goal of delivering 1.8 billion doses to lower income economies would be reached in the first quarter of 2022, GAVI said.

GAVI's board also set new terms for accessing vaccines, which will disincentivise middle-income nations from participating by insisting they pay for COVAX vaccines fully in advance next year.

"Starting in 2022, the model will enable self-financing participants that rely on the facility to access doses to continue procuring vaccines through COVAX under revised terms and conditions," it said.

Reuters, citing internal GAVI documents, reported on Wednesday that the overhaul was intended to reduce COVAX's financial risks, increase its focus on the countries most in need and reduce the participation of richer countries. read more

GAVI estimates that membership of the scheme may shrink to 120-130 next year, from about 190 countries now, an internal document shows.

The changes mean countries in Latin America and the Middle East, as well as the likes of South Africa, could face higher costs to access the scheme and would need to borrow money to secure doses.

However, the poorest countries, mostly in Africa and Southeast Asia, will keep the same conditions, with little or no costs to buy vaccines.

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Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Emma Farge

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