Canada News Agency

Growing list of nations including China join COVAX Facility

China has joined the global initiative to ensure a vaccine to counter Covid-19 will be made available to the entire world once one is developed.

171 countries are now committed to make equality of access a priority.

China was one of three nations signing up this week. The other two were South Korea and Nauru, a tiny country in the South Pacific which has a population of just over 10,000.

The United States remains isolated the rest of the world community, refusing to add it's name to the growing list. Another notable absentee is Russia.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced China, South Korea and Nauru's involvement on Friday during his regular media briefing on the pandemic.

"The world is eagerly anticipating the results of trials of vaccines against COVID-19, which are needed for WHO authorization", Tedros said Friday.

"Once we have an effective vaccine, we must also use it effectively, and the best way to do that is by making sure it's available to all countries equitably through the COVAX Facility."

The global mechanism will work to deliver two billion doses by the end of next year. It currently has the largest portfolio of potential vaccines, with several in advanced human trials.

WHO was asked about the impact of China's participation.

"The more countries that participate in the COVAX Facility, the greater opportunity of being able to roll out vaccines as rapidly as possible, as fairly as possible, to reduce the risk of severe COVID disease globally," Dr. Bruce Aylward, Senior Advisor said Friday.

He added that details on China's enrollment "(are) still being worked out," with specific information anticipated early next week.

WHO has also welcomed the announcement this week that vaccine developer Moderna will not enforce patent rights over its COVID-19 shots during the pandemic.

Tedros described this as an "act of solidarity," which aligns with another initiative for sharing scientific knowledge, data and intellectual property in efforts to beat back the disease.

The COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) was launched in May and is described as a "one-stop shop" for affordable access to technology.

It draws on existing mechanisms such as the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool, which expands access to treatments for HIV and hepatitis for low and middle income countries.

This week has been a good week for the initiative. Approximately $958 million in commitments were made by the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy and Sweden taking the total raised for the Gavi COVAX AMC so far to $ 1.7 billion.

The target for the COVAX AMC is $2 billion this year to reserve and access a billion doses for AMC-eligible economies, with at least $5 billion needed next year to procure doses as they come through the portfolio.

"This type of global collaboration is exactly what the world needs in order to end the acute phase of this pandemic, and we very much appreciate the generosity of donors when their own economies are undergoing stress," Marie-Ange Saraka-Yao, Managing Director for Resource Mobilisation, Private Sector Partnerships & Innovative Finance at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance said this week. "The pledges made this week bring us closer to the COVAX goal of making sure ability to pay is not a barrier for access to COVID-19 vaccines. We are grateful to the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Italy, Sweden and all the other COVAX AMC donors for their continued commitment to our shared vision that no one is safe from COVID-19 until the most vulnerable everywhere are safe."