Geneva/London — About 172 countries are engaging with the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) facility designed to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, but more funding is needed and countries now need to make binding commitments.

Countries wishing to be part of the global Covax plan have until August 31 to submit expressions of interest, WHO officials said, with confirmation of intention to join due by September 18 and initial payments due by October 9.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the facility is critical to ending the Covid-19 pandemic and will 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 vaccine alliance, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It is designed to guarantee equitable access globally to Covid-19 vaccines once they are developed and authorised for use.

It now covers nine candidate Covid-19 vaccines and its aim is to secure supplies 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 is important to provide the vaccine to those at highest risk around the globe,” Tedros said. He said this includes health workers on the front lines of the pandemic, who are “critical to saving lives and stabilising the overall health system”.


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