Oct. 9 (UPI) -- China on Friday said it has joined a World Health Organization-led initiative that aims to manufacture and provide equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine.
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's foreign ministry, said the Asian nation signed an agreement with Gavi on Thursday to join COVAX, the vaccine pillar of the WHO's Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator program.
Launched in April by the WHO, the ACT Accelerator aims to ramp up development, production and equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, and is co-led by the U.N. health body, Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
Hua did not state China's financial contribution to the program but said it pledges to make domestically developed vaccines a public resource.
"This is an important step China has taken to uphold the concept of a shared community of health for all and to honor its commitment to turn COVID-19 vaccines into a global public good," Hua said in a statement. "We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX."
As of Friday, more than 150 economies equalling nearly two-thirds of the world's population have signed commitment agreements to the COVAX Facility in its effort to ensure low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to a vaccine when one is developed.
The United States, which has formally requested to leave the WHO, has declined to participate in the effort, as it accuses the U.N. health body of colluding with China in its efforts to cover up its initial outbreak of the virus late last year.
In late August, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more than 170 nations were in talks to join the program, explaining that the plan consists of delivering at least 2 billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of next year with a global rollout to begin with those who are at the greatest risk.
"There is light at the end of the tunnel," said Tedros, who has warned against so-called vaccine nationalism.
Gavi said Thursday it has raised roughly $1.8 billion, nearly reaching its goal of $2 billion by the end of this year for the program.