GENEVA — The World Health Organization said on Friday it had reached an agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech for 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine and should be able to start delivering vaccines to poor and lower-middle income countries next month under its COVAX program.
The COVAX scheme, led by the WHO and the GAVI vaccine alliance, signed deals for hundreds of millions of doses to vaccinate people in poor and lower-middle income countries, but vaccinations have yet to start. Pfizer’s vaccine is so far the only one that has WHO emergency approval.
“In this world we are as protected as our neighbor,” said Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla, officially announcing the deal which Reuters reported on Thursday.
Bourla said the 40 million doses, a fraction of the company’s total 2021 production estimate of 2 billion, would be sold on a non-profit basis. He described it as an initial agreement, and said more doses could be provided through the COVAX program in future.
The deal comes amid growing criticism of vaccine inequity from both the WHO and others as wealthy countries inoculate millions of people using shots procured through bilateral deals.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the new agreement with Pfizer should allow vaccinations to begin in February for health workers, although details of supply arrangements are still being finalized.