The European Union has renewed its committment to sharing more than 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines with low and middle-income nations, including Nepal, by the end of 2021.
The doses will be delivered mainly through the COVAX initiative, which has so far provided 122 million doses to 136 countries. This is far less than the quantity originally promised because of supply chain issues and India’s ban on export of its AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine.
“Team Europe takes its responsibility in helping the world fight the virus, everywhere. Vaccination is key – that’s why it is essential to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines to countries worldwide,” said EU President Ursula von der Leyen at this week’s Global Health Summit in Rome.
In parallel, Europe is providing better access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa, in part by helping create the right conditions for local vaccine manufacturing in Africa.
The initiative will be backed by a €1 billion grant from the EU, and European development finance institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB).
On 9 July, Team Europe agreed to support large-scale investment in vaccine production by the Institut Pasteur in Dakar. The new plant will reduce Africa’s 99% dependence on vaccine imports and strengthen future pandemic resilience in the continent.
The European Union is one of the biggest donors of COVAX and has contributed at least €2.47 billion to the initiative, which had committed to providing free vaccines for 20% of Nepal’s population.
It sent its first consignment to Kathmandu back in March with 348,000 doses of AstraZeneca Covishield manufactured by Serum Institute of India. But owing to a global manufacturing bottleneck and the export ban in India on vaccines, it was unable to deliver any more doses till recently.