‘These vaccines will be distributed to health workers and people in risk groups in low-income countries. This can make an enormous difference in countries that are experiencing a severe vaccine shortage,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.
Norway is helping to fight the pandemic in three different ways: by providing funding, through distribution of future surplus vaccine doses and by transferring its options for vaccine doses through the Covax financing instrument.
Last year, Norway purchased options for vaccine doses through Covax. The vaccines that will now be made available to low-income countries are the result of this. The funding for these options was provided under the aid budget and is classified as official development assistance (ODA) under the OECD/DAC rules. Given Norway’s participation in the common procurement agreement with the EU, it was always seen as unlikely that Norway would need to make use of these options itself. All the vaccines are included in the EU’s portfolio of Covid-19 vaccine candidates. This means that the vaccine doses in question would not have been acquired for use in the Norwegian vaccination programme.
‘It is a matter of urgency to vaccinate health workers and vulnerable groups in countries with weaker health systems. Health workers are particularly exposed to infection and it is vital to ensure they have safe working conditions. Covax delivers vaccines to developing countries that do not have the means or the capacity to compete in the vaccine market. We are strengthening the health systems in these countries and equipping them to respond to the pandemic more effectively,’ said Mr Ulstein.
Norway has already transferred options for vaccine doses from AstraZeneca and Pfizer to Covax AMC. The transfer of the remaining options will provide 895 000 vaccine doses manufactured by Novavax and 164 000 by Janssen to the Covax Facility. Altogether, Norway will have contributed a total of 1.7 million vaccine doses to Covax AMC.
‘In Africa, less than 0.5 % of the population is fully vaccinated. There is a need to speed up delivery so that those who have received their first dose can receive their second one. Export restrictions in countries that manufacture vaccines have made it difficult for Covax to obtain enough vaccine doses. It is critical that Norway shares vaccines quickly to help deal with this vaccine crisis,’ said Mr Ulstein.
Covax AMC plans to deliver 1.8 billion vaccine doses to 92 medium- and low-income countries in 2022. In addition to transferring its options for vaccine doses to Covax AMC, Norway is also providing NOK 1.3 billion in funding to the Covax Facility. This will enable Covax to purchase approximately 25 million vaccine doses for low-income countries. Norway was one of the first countries to contribute to the Covax Facility.
‘If we do not succeed in stopping the global spread of infection, we risk the emergence of new variants of the virus that will challenge the efficacy of the vaccines. It is not enough to suppress the virus in Norway – it must be suppressed in all countries. We must share and distribute vaccines to the poorest countries as rapidly as possible. Many of these countries have weak health systems, which means that many people may not receive the treatment they need if they become ill,’ said Mr Ulstein.
Norway secured access to Covid-19 vaccines for the Norwegian population via an agreement with the EU. The Government has taken a decision to share the vaccines that are not to be used in Norway’s national vaccination programme. In her speech at the Global Health Summit in May, Prime Minister Erna Solberg stated that Norway would share an additional 5 million vaccine doses through Covax as part of the country’s international pandemic response.