Pfizer to join WHO co-led vaccine scheme: sources

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Pfizer and BioNTech have agreed to supply their COVID-19 shot to the World Health Organization's (WHO) COVAX vaccine scheme, which is aimed at lower-income countries.

That's according to two sources familiar with the deal, who said it's expected to be announced on Friday.

The scheme was set up last year as a result of concerns that poorer nations would lose out as rich countries scrambled to secure COVID-19 vaccines for their citizens.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine would be COVAX's second after AstraZeneca's.

Details on the size of the deal or the price COVAX would pay were not immediately clear, but the sources said the allotment of doses would likely be relatively small.

One source says the limited doses are primarily meant for healthcare workers in COVAX countries.

The Pfizer shot is also more complicated to transport and store, requiring ultra-cold freezers, which may not be practical for poorer countries with hot climates.

Reuters reported Wednesday that the WHO plans to approve several more vaccines from Western and Chinese manufacturers in the coming weeks.

In an updated forecast published on Thursday, COVAX said it planned to deliver nearly 2 billion doses to 92 countries this year, covering over a quarter of their populations.

The COVAX scheme is set to start distributing COVID-19 vaccines next month.

Ukraine said earlier on Thursday that its first delivery of some 210,000 doses under the COVAX scheme could arrive in the first half of February.

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