PAHO/WHO Representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean countries, Dr. Yitades Gebre, speaking at the handover of a Nissan Urvan vehicle and medical supplies to the Ministry of Health and Wellness yesterday. (S. Forde-Craigg/BGIS)

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) continues to advocate for flat prices, minimal returns, sustainable financing, leveraging existing systems and consolidated demand forecasting to improve access and affordability.

PAHO/WHO Representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean countries, Dr. Yitades Gebre, noted that it will be hosting a special session of its governing body, on Thursday, December 10, and the institution will be advocating for flat pricing, and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Gebre was speaking at the handover of a Nissan Urvan vehicle and medical supplies to the Ministry of Health and Wellness. 

He pointed out that PAHO is preparing to procure COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of all PAHO interested member states as part of its technical cooperation and country preparedness initiative for introducing new COVID-19 vaccines.

“PAHO estimates that for a typical country in the Latin America and the Caribbean the initial cost burden of the new COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be 12 times more than the annual national immunisation budget, just to acquire the vaccine for 20 per cent of their total population.

“For those considered at highest risk in 2021, countries in the region will need to invest three times their current annual immunisation budgets. To this end, the affordability of the future COVID-19 vaccines will be critical,” Dr. Gebre emphasised.

The representative mentioned that it is time for Barbados and other PAHO member states to present themselves as a unified bloc in order to ensure equitable and affordable access to the COVID-19 vaccines, because achieving flat pricing would require concerted efforts and strategy for leveraging demand volumes and supplier willingness to accede to extraordinary times of the pandemic.

Dr. Gebre noted that unless all partners, including GAVI, CEPI, UNICEF, BMGF, World Bank, and WHO HQ are on board in the effort to leverage existing systems, flat pricing will be a missed opportunity for the global community. 

However, due to the unique nature of the COVID-19 vaccines development pipeline, there is a considerable risk of tiered pricing or other kinds of non-competitive practices by some suppliers.

The PAHO representative highlighted that his organisation is working closely with partners in the design of the equitable allocation mechanism under World Health Organization (WHO) HQ leadership, as part of ACT Accelerator.  

The design entails identification of all parameters for optimal and equitable allocation decision making, roles and responsibilities of governing bodies, information flow, and ensuring country readiness to receive the allocated COVID-19 vaccine doses.

He also revealed that regional solidarity had led to an unprecedented level of participation from countries in the Americas in the COVAX Facility. 

With 27 self-financing countries and territories signing commitment agreements (against 95 self-financing countries globally – representing 33% of the projected global procurement volume).

“Despite the financial implications for national budgets, most of the 27 self-financing countries have already met the facility’s financial requirements, representing allocation of more than $1 billion as down-payments and financial guarantees. In addition, the 10 countries (out of a total of 92 globally) in the region, eligible for Advance Market Commitment support, are submitting applications to the facility,” Dr. Gebre revealed.

Under the COVAX Facility, the PAHO Revolving Fund for Access to Vaccines and UNICEF’s Supply Division mechanisms are recognised as the main procurement agents, having issued a joint Request for Proposal to vaccine manufacturers on November 12, 2020.

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