By Stefan von Kempis & Linda Bordoni
COVAX is the abbreviation for “Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access”, a ground-breaking global collaboration established to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, so as to leave no one behind.
NGOs, UN organizations, top health and research institutes, as well as governments, are part of the solidarity-driven initiative that stems from the “ACT Accelerator”.
Meanwhile, the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause deaths, economic recession, unemployment, isolation and mental health issues across the globe. Grief, poverty and uncertainty mark countries rich and poor, but those who are most vulnerable continue to pay the highest price.
Rejecting “vaccine nationalisms” and reiterating that no one is saved alone, Pope Francis and the Holy See call for solidarity and a future to be built in the spirit of human fraternity.
As Michael Koch, the German ambassador to the Holy See tells Vatican Radio, the COVAX drive, of which his country is part, is proceeding and aims to contribute substantially to global recovery and rebirth:
Ambassador Koch rejects the claim made by some that wealthy nations appear to care only for their own people: “I think one has to understand that States primarily feel a responsibility, or first feel the responsibility, for their own citizens.”
But while that is a legitimate viewpoint, he adds, it is a general consensus that “we will only succeed in successfully combating Covid if humanity, as a whole, can address this challenge together,” in the knowledge that people will only be protected from Covid if everyone is protected.
Acknowledging that at this point there is a scarcity of vaccinations because the demand is so great, Ambassador Koch notes that Europe, and his own country – Germany – last year launched COVAX which aims “to help countries that are less fortunate to also have access to vaccines and to have their people vaccinated as well.”
Koch explains that COVAX operates under the umbrella of the World Health Organisation, is part of an even larger effort under the acronym of ACTA, intending to help developing countries to participate as fully as possible in efforts to combat the virus, “helping with testing kits, with expertise, with advice and particularly with vaccines.”
No one is saved alone
The premise, he says “is the realisation that we will win this together, or no one will win. It's as simple as that.”
Ambassador Koch says the spirit in which the initiative was created and continues to be driven is very much in line with Pope Francis’ exhortation to human fraternity in his encyclical Fratelli tutti.
He pointed out that a country like Germany, which represents slightly more than 1% of the world population, with this initiative has decided to assume responsibility for the other 99%.
“We are not alone. We are part of humanity, and we have a responsibility for humanity,” he says.
Aims and time-line
Koch explains that COVAX vaccination campaigns have already started in some countries and said the plan is to intensify and extend this effort by the end of May to another 130 countries.
“The ultimate goal is to have, by the end of next year, 20% of the world population vaccinated on the basis of COVAX,” he said noting that the drive is of course in addition to national efforts.
He describes the drive as a substantial contribution that also optimizes a vaccine roll-out because it is centralized and controlled by the WHO and finances the vaccine so it can be administered, free of charge, to people in need.
Rejecting criticism that all of this might be “too little too late,” the Ambassador notes that efforts are far from finished: “The contributions so far, from what I understand, are about half what we need, But of course this is an ongoing effort so I think that at this point in time, we are in good shape,” and more funds need to come in if we want to achieve our ambitious goal.
“I think every person that is being vaccinated as a result of this effort is a success,” he says, noting that more money and further efforts are needed so that we all can be safe.