GENEVA, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- COVAX, an international initiative for COVID-19 vaccines led by the World Health Organization (WHO), has secured contracts of 2 billion doses of vaccines, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.
"We are ready. COVAX is ready. Countries are ready," Tedros declared at a press briefing on Friday.
COVAX, which aims to ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccines for all participating countries, has secured contracts of 2 billion doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, said the WHO chief, adding that these doses are to be rolled out soon after being delivered.
Despite the 2 billion doses and the right of first refusal on an additional 1 billion doses, the WHO chief re-emphasized equitable distribution of the vaccines among rich and poor countries.
"At present, 42 countries are rolling out safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. 36 of these are high-income countries and six are middle-income. So there's a clear problem that low- and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet," Tedros said.
"Rich countries have bought up the majority of the supply of multiple vaccines. Now we're also seeing both high and middle-income countries, that are part of COVAX, making additional bilateral deals," he added.
Since "vaccine nationalism hurts us all and is self-defeating," Tedros urged countries that have contracted more vaccines than they will need, and are controlling the global supply, to also donate and release them to COVAX immediately. He also urged countries and manufacturers to stop making bilateral deals at the expense of COVAX.
"No country is exceptional and should cut the queue and vaccinate all their population while some remain with no supply of the vaccine," he warned. "The time to deliver vaccines equitably is now!"
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