PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic will not take part in the World Health Organization-led COVAX plan to develop and distribute a vaccine against COVID-19 and will opt instead for an initiative of the European Union, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said on Wednesday.
The WHO has struggled to bring wealthier countries on board for a global vaccine pact, saying on Tuesday that nations that hoard possible COVID-19 vaccines while excluding others will deepen the pandemic.
The European Union, Britain, Switzerland and the United States are striking deals with companies testing prospective vaccines. Russia and China are also working on vaccines, and the WHO fears national interests could impede global efforts.
“We will not join the WHO initiative for various reasons, the rules are less favourable for us than being part of the European initiative,” he told reporters.
“We are going with the initiative by the European Commission, which is negotiating with producers, and the negotiations are very advanced, we will very soon take part in (an agreement) with AstraZeneca.”
The EU agreed last week to buy at least 300 million doses of AstraZeneca’s potential COVID-19 vaccine in its first such advance purchase deal, with others expected to follow.
The Czech government has said it intends to initially vaccinate 3.5 million out of the country’s 10.7 million population to cover medical and social services staff, elderly and ill citizens. It expects to purchase 7 million doses of a vaccine assuming two shots will be needed for each person.
Reporting by Robert Muller; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Alex Richardson and Gareth Jones
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