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WHO says 172 countries engaging with global COVID-19 vaccine plan

WHO says 172 countries engaging with global COVID-19 vaccine plan

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the headquarters of the World Health Orgnaization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

GENEVA: About 172 countries are engaging with the COVAX facility designed to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization said on Monday (Aug 24), but more funding is needed and countries need now to make binding commitments.

Countries wishing to be part of the global COVAX plan have until Aug 31 to submit expressions of interest, WHO officials said, with confirmation of intention to join due by Sep 18, and initial payments due by Oct 9.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the facility was critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, and would not only pool risk for countries developing and buying vaccines, but also ensure prices are kept "as low as possible".

"Vaccine nationalism only helps the virus," he told a media briefing. "The success of the COVAX facility hinges not only on countries signing up to it, but also filling key funding gaps."

COVAX is co-led by the GAVI vaccines alliance, the WHO and the CEPI Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and is designed to guarantee equitable access globally to COVID-19 vaccines once they are developed and authorised for use.

It currently covers nine candidate COVID-19 vaccines and its aim is to secure supplies of and deliver 2 billion doses across countries that sign up by the end of 2021.

"Initially, when there will be limited supply (of COVID-19 vaccines), it's important to provide the vaccine to those at highest risk around the globe," Tedros said.

He said this included health workers on the front lines of the pandemic, who were "critical to saving lives and stabilising the overall health system".

It also urged countries to join its plan to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines so they can work together in a coordinated manner.

Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the WHO director-general, told a news briefing that "the critical thing is to ensure that some vaccine gets to all countries as early as possible". 

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Source: Reuters

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