US and China buck WHO-backed global effort to expand access to COVID vaccine

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Credit: LSJ

Countries representing about 64% of the world population have signed up to expand global access to Covid-19 vaccines by funding a purchasing pool organized by the World Health Organization and other nonprofit groups, leaders of the effort announced [September 21].

Not among the countries: the United States, which had previously said it is not taking part in the so-called COVAX Facility, or Russia nor China, both of which have already issued emergency use licenses for Covid-19 vaccines.

Still, a total of 156 countries have committed to joining the effort, which hopes to purchase 2 billion doses of vaccine by the end of 2021. Of participating countries, 64 are higher-income nations, whose participation is critical to ensuring the financial feasibility of the effort.

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The initiative is being organized by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, in addition to the WHO. The Trump administration cited the involvement of the WHO, which it plans to withdrawal from by next July, as its reason for not participating.

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“Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said [September 21]. “Working together through the COVAX Facility is not charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests to control the pandemic and accelerate the global economic recovery.”

Tedros said the effort is at a critical point, with only $3 billion committed so far.

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