World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday announced a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech to provide to 40 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine for people living in poor countries.
Dr Tedros said another 150 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine may also soon be available through the Covax programme, which is run by the WHO and the Gavi vaccine alliance, subject to safety tests.
“Together, these announcements mean Covax could begin delivering doses in February, provided we can finalise a supply agreement for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and emergency-use listing for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine,” he said.
“This agreement also opens the door for countries who are willing to share doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, to donate them to Covax and support rapid roll-out.”
The first batches of coronavirus vaccines are expected to ship to poorer countries from February and the programme is "on track to deliver 2 billion doses by the end of this year", Dr Tedros said.
Covax was set up last year over concerns that poorer nations would lose out while rich countries scrambled to secure Covid-19 vaccines in bulk, with governments buying more than was needed for their populations.
The pathogen has claimed more than 2 million lives and infected more than 96 million people, forcing economies around the world into lockdown since the virus was first registered in central China at the end of 2019.
The new US administration of President Joe Biden said on Thursday it intends to join the Covax programme. Mr Biden has also reversed a decision of the previous Trump administration to leave the WHO.
Addressing the WHO executive board, Mr Biden's chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said the US would remain a member of the UN agency and that it would work multilaterally on issues from the Covid-19 pandemic to HIV/Aids.