Latter-day Saint Charities is giving $20 million to support COVAX, a global campaign to provide 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines to people in low- and middle-income countries, according to a joint news release issued Friday morning by UNICEF and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

UNICEF, the children’s emergency fund of the United Nations, is tasked with distributing the vaccine. The church’s grant will go to UNICEF to help fund that effort. The agency delivered the first 600,000 COVAX doses to Ghana on Wednesday. Côte d’Ivoire received 500,000 doses today.

“This grant for our important role in COVAX, from Latter-day Saint Charities, is the single biggest donation from a private sector partner that we’ve received to date,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said. “We hope that their generosity inspires other organizations, businesses and individuals to help us ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.”

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Latter-day Saint Charities has supported 1,050 COVID-19 relief projects in 152 countries. Its pandemic response is the largest humanitarian project in church history. The church previously supplied $3 million to UNICEF in 2020 to fund COVID-19-related water, sanitation and hygiene services.

“We express gratitude to UNICEF’s team and organization. They have done so much to care for children, and their families, and help them meet basic needs and fulfill their potential,” said Bishop Gérald Caussé, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “As more adults in vulnerable communities are vaccinated, critical health, nutritional, and educational services for children in need will be able to resume. We hold hope in our hearts, not only of overcoming the pandemic, but of seeing a brighter future for all children and their families.”

The church has not released a total dollar figure to describe its COVID-19 relief, but it now runs in the tens of millions of dollars.

UNICEF also will use the church’s funds to help nations create trust in vaccines, address misinformation, build their cold storage and supply chains and train health workers.

The church and UNICEF USA have been partners since 2013.

COVAX is “the largest immunization campaign in history,” UNICEF’s Fore told the Associated Press.

COVAX is intended to provide fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world, according to the release. Rich nations have been accused of hoarding vaccines while poorer countries struggled to afford them or manage the facilities necessary to store them.

“The 54 wealthiest countries are home to 18% of the world’s adult population, but have ordered 40% of all available vaccines,” according to an article published Thursday in the Economist.

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COVAX is short for “Covid-19 vaccines Global Access Facility,” a collaboration of international partners. It is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, an effort to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi: the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization. 

Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are two of 92 low-and middle-income countries that will receive free vaccines via COVAX. About 100 other countries and territories can buy vaccines through COVAX.

“COVID-19 is the first truly global crisis we have seen in our lives,” UNICEF’s Fore said. “No matter where we live, the pandemic affects every person, including children. There has never been a more urgent need to work together.”

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