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How We All Get To Travel Again

Vaccines are the travel industry’s best hope of returning to normal. And part of this means getting the jab to as many people around he worlds as quickly possible. A new initiative may help speed this up.

The heads of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, World Health Organization and World Trade Organization met with the CEOs of leading vaccine manufacturing companies to discuss strategies to improve the access to COVID-19 vaccines, especially in low- and lower middle-income countries and in Africa. The Task Force expressed concerns that without urgent steps the world is unlikely to achieve the end-2021 target of vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries—a critical milestone to end the pandemic and for global economic recovery.

The Task Force members noted that, despite adequate total global vaccine production in the aggregate, the doses are not reaching low- and lower middle-income countries in sufficient amounts, resulting in a crisis of vaccine inequity. The Task Force encouraged countries that have contracted high amounts of vaccine doses, and vaccine manufacturers, to come together in good faith to urgently accelerate COVID-19 vaccine supplies to COVAXand AVAT, two multilateral mechanisms that are crucial for equitable distribution of vaccines. 

The Task Force members noted that, despite adequate total global vaccine production in the aggregate, the doses are not reaching low- and lower middle-income countries in sufficient amounts, resulting in a crisis of vaccine inequity. The Task Force encouraged countries that have contracted high amounts of vaccine doses, and vaccine manufacturers, to come together in good faith to urgently accelerate COVID-19 vaccine supplies to COVAXand AVAT, two multilateral mechanisms that are crucial for equitable distribution of vaccines.

The Task Force stressed that if the 40% coverage threshold is to be reached in all countries by the end of 2021, the following actions need to be taken immediately by governments and vaccine manufacturers: 

Release doses to low- and lower middle-income countries : Task Force members take note that countries with high vaccination rates have collectively pre-purchased over two billion doses in excess of what is required to fully vaccinate their populations. The Task Force calls again on those countries to urgently: i) swap their near-term delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT, ii) fulfill their dose donation pledges with unearmarked upfront deliveries to COVAX, and iii) release vaccine companies from options and contracts so those doses can be delivered to people in low- and lower middle-income countries. In addition, vaccine manufacturers should prioritize and fulfill their contracts to COVAX and AVAT. 

Transparency on supply of vaccines : To ensure that doses reach countries that need them the most, particularly low- and lower middle-income countries, the Task Force calls on vaccine manufacturers to share details on month-by-month delivery schedules for all vaccine shipments, especially for COVAX and AVAT. In its remarks, WHO emphasized its call for a moratorium on booster doses until the end of 2021, with the exception of the immune-compromised, to help optimize supply to low-income countries. 

Eliminate export restrictions, prohibitions : The Task Force calls on all countries to urgently address export restrictions, high tariffs and customs bottlenecks on COVID-19 vaccines and the raw materials and supplies required for the production and timely distribution of vaccines. 

Regulatory streamlining and harmonization : The Task Force calls on all regulatory authorities around the world to create regulatory consistency and standardization on the approval of vaccines, and to support the acceptance of the WHO Emergency Use Listing procedure. In parallel, efforts should be made to boost production of vaccines, diagnostics and treatments globally and expedite equitable delivery of such lifesaving tools to developing countries.

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