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WHO agrees deal to supply initial 40 million Covid vaccine doses to poorer countries

“We still have a lot of work to do, but the light at the end of the tunnel continues to grow brighter,” the WHO chief said today.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

THE WHO AND pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer today announced a deal for up to 40 million initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for poorer countries, through Covax global pool.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Covax — the globally-pooled coronavirus vaccine procurement and equitable distribution effort — could begin delivering doses in February.

“I’m glad to announce that Covax has signed an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for up to 40 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine,” he told a press conference in Geneva.

Covax aims to secure enough Covid-19 vaccines this year for the most vulnerable 20% in every country, rich or poor.

In Covax, funding is covered for the 92 lower- and lower-middle income economies involved, while for richer countries, it operates as a back-up insurance policy.

Aimed at pooling the risk and rewards, Covax has struck agreements with manufacturers for two billion vaccine doses, and has secured options on a further billion.

It is co-led by the WHO as well as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

“Vaccines are giving us all hope of ending the pandemic and getting the economy on the road to recovery,” said Tedros.

“But we can only end the pandemic anywhere if we end it everywhere. And to do that, we need every member state, every partner and every vaccine producer on board.”

Speaking more broadly than Covax, Pfizer chairman Albert Bourla said he felt confident that Pfizer-BioNTech should be able to produce two billion Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2021.

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“Science will win, and will win for everyone,” he told the press conference.

Asked about how many vaccine doses all manufacturers might be able to produce this year, Gavi chief executive Seth Berkley said: “I think we’re talking about numbers in the range of six to seven billion doses”.

Tedros added: “It is not vaccines on their own that will help end the pandemic, it is vaccination.

“We still have a lot of work to do, but the light at the end of the tunnel continues to grow brighter.”

© AFP 2021

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