Covax aims to deliver 150 million Covid vaccine doses to poor countries by the end of March

German Chancellor Angela Merkel backs initiative that seeks to provide fair access to inoculation

The Covax vaccination alliance hopes to deliver 150 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to some of the world's poorest countries in the first quarter of the year, the World Economic Forum's Davos 2021 summit heard on Tuesday.

Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive of the public-private global health partnership Gavi vaccine alliance, which is co-leading the drive, announced a target of another 500 million doses to be distributed in the following quarter.

That would be followed by 1.5 billion doses in the second half of the year.

Covax, which comprises 190 countries and the World Health Organisation, is an initiative to promote equitable access to vaccines and deliver two billion doses to countries most in need by the end of 2021.

Dr Berkley told the virtual discussion that the development of Covax "shows the importance of solidarity because we're only safe if everyone's safe".

Once the alliance is able to gain regulatory approval, it hopes to distribute the vaccine as widely as possible.

Dr Berkley said: “Obviously, right now there’s a little bit of a global vaccine panic and many countries want doses as of today, and we’re doing the best we can to move this forward.”

He said Covax was formed on the back of circumstances surrounding 2009’s swine flu pandemic, when a small number of countries bought the all available vaccines.

Dr Berkley also highlighted the importance of continuing with research and development as the pandemic continues its assault on the world’s population.

"You really want to keep R&D going, and that's critical right now because we want second generation vaccines that are more temperature stable, that are single dose," he said.

“But of course, for the new variants we may need to ultimately make some changes in vaccines.”

Also speaking at the virtual WEF discussion was Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called for a fairer distribution of vaccines, which she said provide a route out of the pandemic.

“Money is one thing, but the other thing in a time of scarcity is the availability of the vaccine. Here it’s about a fair distribution and not about a question of money," she said.

“This is why I’m so pleased Gavi is leading the negotiations.

"Let's not kid ourselves, the question of who gets which vaccine in the world will of course leave new wounds and new memories, because those who get such emergency help will remember that."

She championed the need for greater multilateralism, while calling on wealthier countries to do all they could to support global vaccination efforts.

"It has become even clearer to me than it was before that we need to choose a multilateral approach, that a self-isolating approach won't solve our problems.

"We see that first of all in the question of vaccination, since it is the route out of the pandemic," she said.

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