WHO Covid vaccine programme cuts 40 million-dose deal with Pfizer and BioNTech

Wider agreement could send 190 million vaccine doses to people in the developing world

FILE - In this Thursday, June 25, 2020 file photo, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), attends a press conference, at the (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Ghebreyesus has on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021 appealed to makers of COVID-19 vaccines and the wealthy countries buying them to “stop making bilateral deals” that hurt a U.N.-backed initiative to make the vaccines more available. He called on countries that have more vaccines than they need to make some available to the COVAX Facility — the U.N.-backed project to get vaccines deployed widely. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, File)
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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.