A plan to phase out the project and treat covid-19 as a common illness rather than a public health emergency was approved “in principle” by the organization leading the Covax initiative to provide the world with doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

According to an internal board document obtained by The Washington Post on Wednesday, board members of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance considered a proposal to end the vaccine-sharing program after 2023 during a two-day meeting in Geneva that ended on Thursday.

The board ultimately gave the go-ahead “in principle” to investigate how to incorporate coronavirus vaccinations into Gavi’s regular immunization programs for developing countries, the organization said in a news release Thursday. However, the board also left room for rethinking the decision if the pandemic worsens.

As nations learn to live with the coronavirus, such a move would signal a significant change in how global health institutions approach covid-19, according to experts. However, some issue a warning that the pandemic is still active and that its trajectory may quickly change.

A nonprofit organization called Gavi provides developing nations with a range of immunizations. Early in the pandemic, it collaborated with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop Covax.

In order to help low- and middle-income countries access life-saving vaccines in the midst of a global pandemic, the initiative had shipped more than 1.8 billion coronavirus vaccines to 146 countries as of last month. However, critics assert that it has also fallen short of its lofty goals, such as a recent objective put forth by the WHO to assist in immunizing 70% of the world’s population against the virus by mid-2022.

According to the proposal made to the board, which was covered by The Post on Wednesday, Gavi will begin a new coronavirus vaccination program in 2024–2025, ending its support for vaccine delivery in 37 middle-income countries while still providing “catalytic financing” for immunization campaigns there.

The 54 low-income nations that are currently eligible for Gavi funding will continue to receive free doses of the coronavirus vaccine, and Gavi will pay 70% of the estimated total delivery costs.

The New York Times broke the news of the Covax termination proposal first.

According to the news release, Covax “continues to have plans in place for worst case scenarios” and Gavi “will remain flexible in case there are significant pandemic developments next year.”

According to the document obtained by The Post, a faction representing a number of Nordic nations, as well as Switzerland and the Netherlands, submitted an amendment to the board before this week’s meeting that called for additional thought and analysis.

John-Arne Rottingen, the board member who represents this group and Norway’s ambassador for global health, expressed his “pleasure” at the board’s decision to conduct additional research before the new program is implemented. At its following meeting in June, the board will discuss the most recent information.

According to him, the strategy will enable Gavi to adjust to shifting vaccine demand and recipient country needs while retaining the flexibility to change course in the event that a more virulent or immune-resistant coronavirus variant materializes.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, wealthy nations, including the United States, snapped up doses of Covax, resulting in inadequate funding and procurement delays.

As of this month, just 68.6 percent of the global population has been vaccinated with at least one dose, according to Our World in Data. This percentage hovers around 25% in low-income nations.

The demand for coronavirus vaccinations is drastically declining in low-income countries, and there is “a broad, growing, global belief that the emergency phase of covid is nearing its end,” according to him.

According to Githinji Gitahi, chief executive of Amref Health Africa, a health development NGO based in Kenya, Covax was the primary supplier of coronavirus vaccines to countries in Africa.

Covax has been able to distribute doses to underdeveloped nations for the past 15 months thanks to donations from developed nations. However, some doses that were donated were thrown out or rejected by authorities because they were so close to expiration dates.

The coronavirus vaccine market is currently flooded with products. But demand has dropped, even in less-vaccinated regions, in part due to weak vaccine infrastructure and vaccine hesitancy in developing countries, Gostin said.