COVID-19 Lessons from UNICEF: Q&A with Gian Gandhi

Dose donations are proving to be a good medicine for vaccine nationalism”: Gian Gandhi, UNICEF

As an official partner of the COVAX Facility, UNICEF is responsible for procurement, logistics and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. We spoke with Gian Gandhi, who leads COVAX operations for UNICEF, to get a sense of the challenges faced by the organization during the pandemic in the context of production shortages and realities at the national levels. He also discusses the procedures around the donations of vaccine doses.

1.      [GHF] Can you elaborate on the role of UNICEF in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines as a part of the COVAX Facility? Can you elaborate on the scale of the operations in the context of this pandemic. How many countries have signed procurement contracts with UNICEF?

Through the COVAX Facility, UNICEF is working with manufacturers and partners on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as ancillary supplies such as injection devices and cold chain refrigerators/freezers. In addition, UNICEF is managing freight, logistics and storage – coordinating the world’s largest vaccine procurement and supply operation. In collaboration with the PAHO Revolving Fund, we are leading the procurement and delivery for 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries while also supporting procurement for more than 97 upper-middle-income and high-income nations. Together, these represent more than four-fifths of the world’s population.

In doing this, UNICEF has drawn on its experience as the world’s largest single vaccine procurer, wherein normal times, we supply the vaccine needs of around 45 per cent of the world’s youngest children. Even so, procuring and delivering COVID-19 vaccine doses on behalf of COVAX could double the volume of vaccines that UNICEF would normally handle annually and involve a mammoth logistics exercise with freight companies, governments, and partners.

The first COVAX vaccine consignment landed in Ghana on 24 February 2021. By mid-July 2021, in spite of severe restrictions in vaccine availability and other challenges, COVAX had delivered more than 126 million vaccine doses to 136 countries and territories around the world.

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