China has joined a global COVID-19 vaccine initiative co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The move by China comes as it holds separate talks with the WHO to have its locally produced COVID-19 vaccines assessed for international use.
A statement from the Chinese foreign ministry on Friday did not give details on the level of support Beijing will provide to the programme, known as COVAX, though President Xi Jinping pledged in May $2 billion over the next two years to help deal with the pandemic.
“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,” said Hua Chunying, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman in the statement.
The COVAX initiative aims to deliver at least two billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021.
China joins some 168 countries that have already announced their participation in COVAX including 76 wealthy, self-financing ones. But neither the US nor Russia have joined the programme.
COVAX is co-led by the GAVI vaccines alliance, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). It 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.
China has at least four experimental vaccines in the final stage of clinical trials – two are developed by state-backed China National Biotec Group (CNBG), and the remaining two are from Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics, respectively.