China, which has at least four coronavirus vaccine candidates in the final phase of clinical trials, announced on Friday that it is joining the Covid-19 vaccine alliance known as COVAX.
The country signed an agreement with Gavi, the alliance’s co-leader, on Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Initially, China did not agree to join as the September entry deadline was not met.
“We are taking this concrete step to ensure a fair distribution of vaccines, especially in developing countries, and we hope that more efficient countries will join and support COVAX,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
The terms of the agreement and how China will contribute to it are not yet clear. The country’s leader Xi Jinping previously said China would make the vaccine a global public good.
The World Health Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The alliance is designed so that the richer countries agree to buy potential vaccines and fund access for poorer ones. However, critical questions remain as to how the goal is to be achieved. An early problem with the alliance was that many richer countries were directly negotiating their own deals with pharmaceutical companies and some refusing to join.
Download the NBC News App for the latest news about the coronavirus
The United States, the world’s largest economy, refused to join. China is the second largest.
The alliance plans to purchase 2 billion doses of a vaccine by the end of 2021, although it is not known whether the successful vaccine will require one or two doses.