Remarks by Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, at briefing on COVAX progress to date
New York, 18 December - “As we prepare to turn the calendar on what has been one of the darkest years imaginable, today we pause to recognize there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Today’s announcement is the latest positive momentum in our shared objective to ensure this light shines for everyone.
“At UNICEF we are ready. We are bringing the full weight of our experience -- as the world’s largest single procurer of vaccines for children -- to help procure and deliver COVID-19 vaccines, and to help countries prepare to receive and administer them.
“Here is how we’re doing this. We are working with PAHO, we have launched a tender to purchase and deliver vaccines to 92 low- and lower middle-income economies who are participating in the COVAX Facility. The first supply agreements are expected to be signed in early January, which will allow UNICEF to procure doses just as soon as they have received approval from WHO.
“In addition to securing the vaccine doses, UNICEF has already pre-positioned more than half a billion syringes and is purchasing 5 million safety boxes so the used syringes and needles can be disposed of in a safe manner by health workers. To be ready and efficient for deployment of vaccines we are bundling ‘the syringes and safety boxes’ and we have expanded our storage capacity in our global logistics hubs in Copenhagen, Dubai and Shanghai to support with delivery of COVID19 vaccines.
“Working with airlines, freight providers and organizations such as IATA, and WEF and once the vaccines are available, we are preparing to transport up to 850 tonnes of COVID-19 vaccines per month next year. This is more than double the average weight of vaccines UNICEF transports each month.
“Working with WHO and Gavi, we are helping countries prepare and develop national deployment and vaccination plans for the large-scale roll out of the vaccines. For example, to fill gaps in cold chain capacity, we are procuring and helping install 70,000 cold-chain fridges in lower-income countries by the end of 2021. This is part of a programme which began in 2017 with support from Gavi.
“So, working with governments on the ground, we are working to strengthen cold and supply chains, train health workers, and build trust in vaccines.
“Working with WHO, GAVI, and NGOs to design and operationalize access of COVID19 vaccines in humanitarian settings.
“So, in conclusion, this is a mammoth challenge. The stakes are incredibly high. But we are ready.”