A total of 156 countries have joined the global COVAX scheme intended to ensure fair distribution of supplies of future vaccines against COVID-19, an alliance led by the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The list includes 64 wealthier, self-financing countries, and accounts for about two-thirds of the global population, head of GAVI vaccines alliance Seth Berkley said, after a deadline of last Friday (September 18) to make binding commitments.
The goal of COVAX is by the end of 2021 to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses around the world, with healthcare workers prioritized initially and then the most vulnerable 20% of people in every participating country, regardless of income level, the WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.
While many lower-income nations are seeking assistance via COVAX, some richer countries had been reticent in confirming their intentions. Some of those who have secured their own future supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, do not plan to join COVAX.
The vaccine alliance said it expected another 38 wealthy countries to join the initiative in coming days.
The World Health Organization also said it has not changed its policy on aerosol transmission of the coronavirus, after U.S. health officials published draft new guidance by mistake warning that it can spread through airborne particles.
Mike Ryan, executive director of the UN agency’s emergencies programme, said he would follow up with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the next 24 hours after it said COVID-19 could spread through airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air and travel beyond six feet.
“Certainly, we haven’t seen any new evidence and our position on this remains the same,” he said in a briefing.
The CDC said a draft version of changes to its recommendations were posted in error on its website while it was in the process of updating its guidance.
It would repost the guidance once it had completed the review.
Ryan said the agency still believes the disease is primarily spread through droplets, but that in crowded closed spaces with inadequate ventilation, aerosol transmission can occur.