Despite countries like China, Russia, and the US not yet signing up for the WHO-backed COVID-19 vaccine program, the UN health agency said Tuesday it will continue to work with all countries as it progresses.

“The fact that we’ve got two-thirds of countries already signed up is brilliant,” WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said at a press briefing in Geneva.

The COVAX Facility is a global initiative that brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure eventual COVID-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live.

Around 180 vaccines to combat the novel disease are in development worldwide, including 35 in human trials, according to the WHO.

“We will not endorse or validate any vaccine until it’s proven to be absolutely safe,” Harris said. “It’s got to pass the highest level of safety standards as well as being efficacious.”

The WHO and other partners claim that 172 economies are engaged in discussions to potentially participate in the plan.

“As of today, 64 higher income countries have submitted legally binding commitments to join the COVAX Facility,” Seth Berkley, head of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, said at a press conference on Monday.

An additional 38 countries are expected to sign soon, he said. These countries will have access to the vaccines in the COVAX portfolio and will pay for their own doses.

Meanwhile, as many as 92 lower income countries that have joined COVAX will have vaccine doses purchased for them.

“COVAX is now in business: governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations, but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere,” Berkley said.

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