More than 170 countries have joined the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COVAX global vaccine plan to help buy and distribute immunisation shots for COVID-19 fairly around the world.

WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says the countries will gain guaranteed access to the world’s largest portfolio of vaccine candidates.

The WHO previously said 92 lower-income nations were seeking assistance via the facility and some 80 higher-income nations had expressed interest.

The WHO and the GAVI vaccine alliance are leading the COVAX facility, which aims to procure and deliver 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of 2021.

But some countries that have secured their own supplies through bilateral deals, including the United States, have said they will not join COVAX.

“The first vaccine to be approved may not be the best. The more shots we have, the higher the chances of having a very safe, very efficacious vaccine,” Tedros added in his remarks made during a webinar hosted by the National University of Singapore.

Africa CDC urges all nations to join WHO’s COVAX vaccine initiative

All nations should join hands in a global effort to procure and distribute potential vaccines against the coronavirus across the globe, the head of Africa’s disease control body urged this month.

“We are in this together. No country will be safe if any other country in the world still has cases of COVID,” John Nkengasong, the head of the Addis Ababa-based Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa-CDC), told an online news conference.

COVAX is designed to discourage national governments from hoarding COVID-19 vaccines and to focus on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country.

Through the African Union, Africa has developed a plan to access COVID-19 vaccines when they become available, Nkengasong said, adding that the continent will also hold talks with COVAX, supplementing other talks with individual nations like China.

The continent has fared better-than-expected, health experts and government officials on the continent say, during the first wave of the pandemic, which began in March.

In the video below, Africa must not be left behind in COVID-19 vaccines: