LONDON (Reuters) – More than 75 high-income countries have joined the global mechanism to procure and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines, GAVI Alliance Chief Seth Berkeley said Wednesday.
The GAVI Alliance, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI), is one of the leaders of a mechanism called COVAX, which aims to make COVID-19 vaccines globally available.
According to Berkeley, Japan, Germany, Norway and over 70 other countries have confirmed their participation in the initiative.
“To date, 76 upper-middle-income and high-income countries have provided confirmation of their intent to participate, and we expect this number to increase,” Berkeley told Reuters in an interview.
“This is good news. It demonstrates that the COVAX scheme is working and is generating the kind of worldwide interest we hoped for,” he added.
COVAX coordinators are negotiating a possible participation in the scheme with China, Berkeley said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Wednesday that China is “supporting COVAX and communicating with WHO and others” about the scheme.
Meanwhile, the United States on Tuesday said it would not join COVAX as President Donald Trump's administration objects to WHO's involvement in the mechanism.
Berkeley said he was not surprised by this decision, but the organization will seek to continue negotiations with Washington.
The goal of the COVAX initiative is to produce and deliver 2 billion doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. Nine experimental vaccines are currently in development, some of which are in clinical testing.
COVAX countries also have the option to freely obtain the vaccine through bilateral contracts or from other sources.
(Keith Kelland with contributions from Stefanie Nebehei in Geneva and Yu Lun Tian in Beijing. Translated by Vladimir Sadykov. Editor Anna Kozlova)