Belgium donates COVID-19 vaccines to third countries through Covax

At its meeting on May 25, 2021, the European Council supported equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines and welcomed the leadership of the Covax mechanism in this regard. The EU's goal is to donate at least 100 million doses by the end of the year, as well as to help build local production capacity. In this context, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that Belgium's goal is to donate 4 million doses by the end of 2021.

Belgium is home to an important pharmaceutical and biotech sector, which has provided a crucial ecosystem for the biopharmaceutical chain to develop vaccines against COVID-19. Our country invests substantially in research and development (R&D) for the biopharmaceutical sector. Belgium also plays a strategic role in the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, the vaccination campaign is progressing well in our country. Belgium also wants to support and encourage the distribution and production of vaccines in our partners.

These 4 million vaccines, from reserves purchased by Belgium from pharmaceutical producers, will be redirected to third countries through various mechanisms, the main one being the Covax initiative, with the help of UNICEF and GAVI. This operation is being carried out in close coordination with the various authorities involved in the vaccination campaign in Belgium: the Federal Public Service for Public Health, the Vaccination Task Force of the COVID-19 Commission (in consultation with the Regions) and the Belgian development cooperation.

Since the beginning of the crisis, Belgium has supported the Covax multilateral mechanism with a contribution of 4 million euro and now with a donation of vaccines. This operation will start in the coming days. Covax aims to provide 2 billion doses by the end of 2022, including 1.8 billion to low- and middle-income countries. To date, 179 million doses have been delivered by Covax to 138 countries. 66% of vaccines delivered to low-income countries have been delivered through Covax. The EU is the 2nd largest contributor to Covax with a contribution of EUR 2.4 billion. An overview of the distribution of vaccines through Covax is available here: https://www.gavi.org/covax-vaccine-roll-out. However, the share of vaccines accessible to the least developed countries is still far too low.

Within the framework of the coordinated European approach 'Team Europe', Belgium will give priority to the donation of these vaccines to the countries of the Western Balkans, the Eastern Neighbourhood and Southern Europe, as well as to Africa. The 14 partner countries of the Belgian development cooperation are also among the geographical priorities. The priority in the allocation of vaccines will take into account the health situation and the vaccination capacity of the countries.

At first, 168,000 doses of Astra Zeneca vaccines will be sent to Ukraine followed by 225,600 doses planned for Kosovo, Armenia and Georgia.

"This donation is an example of our European cooperation to defeat this pandemic and accelerate global vaccination," said Minister of Development Cooperation and Major Cities Policy, Meryame Kitir. "In addition, we are also committed to finding structural ways to strengthen production capacities around the world. For example, within Team Europe, we are working on initiatives that will enable vaccine production in African countries. We are also firmly committed to strengthening local health structures."

International solidarity is the only answer to combat COVID-19. No country in the world will be safe from COVID-19 until all countries are safe.