Story at a glance

  • More than 170 countries have pledged to join the WHO's vaccine sharing program.
  • Called COVAX, the mission of the initiative is to prevent "vaccine nationalism" or hoarding by a single country.

More than 170 countries have joined the World Health Organization (WHO)’s global initiative aimed at distributing the future COVID-19 vaccine equitably across the globe. Called COVAX, it is described as one of the three pillars the WHO created to advance coronavirus treatments in both wealthy and developing countries. 

Despite the WHO’s goal to distribute a treatment as quickly as possible, officials warn against premature use of a vaccine candidate.

“We already face challenges with vaccine acceptance for many proven vaccines,” WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said regarding the global race for a vaccine, as reported by CNBC. “We cannot risk having an effective vaccine for Covid-19 that people refuse because of the perception that it is unsafe.”


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The 172 countries entered into the COVAX program will have access to what is supposedly the largest candidate pool for a coronavirus vaccine. Of this total, 80 countries are potentially self-financing, or wealthier nations, and have nonbinding letters of interest to the initiative, while a separate 92 low- to middle- income countries have signed up.

Some of the countries that have expressed interest in helping finance COVAX include Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, the U.K., Canada and Switzerland. Notably absent from the list is the U.S.

Earlier in September, the Trump administration confirmed that it would not join the WHO’s COVAX program.

“The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” Judd Deere, a spokesman for the White House, told The Washington Post.


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The U.S. is expected to withdraw from the WHO in 2021. President Trump accused the global medical body of a lax approach to policing China’s handling of the outbreak.  

Some of the vaccine candidates approved by the COVAX’s research and development branch include pharmaceutical companies being funded in the U.S.'s Operation Warp Speed, such as Moderna and AstraZeneca.

The timeline of a vaccine available for market distribution has varied between the U.S. and the WHO. While the WHO has said that a realistic timeline for a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine will be in mid-2021, Trump has pushed back on that date, saying on Wednesday that a vaccine could be ready by mid-October. 

The president also said during an ABC News town hall on Tuesday that a vaccine could be ready in three to four weeks. The president’s statements also contradict the Centers for Disease Control's expectation that a potential vaccine for COVID-19 will be available for the general public in the second or third quarter of 2021. 

The rush to approve and distribute a vaccine and other COVID-19 treatments prompted the WHO to issue a warning in early September, warning governments of using political pressure to usher a vaccine forward. Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, emphasized the need for accurate and transparent treatment data free of political influence. 


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Published on Sep 17, 2020