The federal government will commit an additional $50 million to the World Health Organisation’s COVAX initiative, which aims to provide low and middle-income countries with COVID-19 vaccines.
Australia has contributed a total of $130 million to COVAX Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC).
In a joint statement on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and ministers Marise Payne and Zed Seselja said the additional contribution would help COVAX achieve its goal of vaccinating 30% of populations of AMC countries. COVAX originally set a target of 20%.
“Our neighbours in the Pacific and Southeast Asia have now received more than 13 million doses from COVAX, with more deliveries planned. These vaccines are being prioritised for high-risk individuals, health workers, frontline personnel and vulnerable groups,” they said.
“Australia’s contribution will assist the COVAX AMC to deliver more than 1.8 billion doses worldwide, reaching at least 114 million people in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.”
Morrison, Payne and Seselja said the additional COVAX funding would complement the government’s $623 million Regional Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative.
Meanwhile, the People’s Vaccine Alliance — which includes organisations such as Amnesty International, Oxfam, and UNAIDS — has argued that the COVAX initiative is ‘massively failing’. It says that COVAX has delivered less than a third of the doses it had promised by the end of May.
The alliance has warned that at the current rate, it is likely to reach only 10% of people at best in developing countries by the end of the year.
The group noted that last month people living in G7 countries were 77 times more likely to be offered a vaccine than those living in the world’s poorest countries. G7 nations include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In May, those nations were vaccinating at a rate of 4.6 million people a day. If this rate continues, everyone living in G7 nations should be fully vaccinated by January 8, 2022. It would take low-income countries 57 years to reach the same level of protection, the alliance has estimated.
Last month the End COVID For All campaign called on Australia to do more to help other countries in need of vaccines, after US President Joe Biden announced his administration would send 20 million COVID-19 vaccines abroad by the end of June. That was in addition to the 60 million vaccines that the US announced would be shared in April.
“Australia needs to step up and play its part by committing our fair share of $200 million to COVAX at its June pledging conference in Tokyo,” campaign spokesperson Tim Costello said.
“We have been helping our neighbours bilaterally but this is no substitute for a contribution to COVAX as the pandemic will not end without a concerted international effort. COVAX — the global vaccine equity scheme — should have delivered its 170 millionth dose this week but is not yet at 50% of that target.”
At May 31, COVAX had distributed more than 77 million vaccines.