The World Health Organization says 184 countries have now joined the COVID-19 global vaccine alliance, known as COVAX, designed to speed development and ensure distribution of viable vaccines and treatments for the ailment caused by the coronavirus.
At the organization's Monday briefing at its headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Ecuador and Uruguay are the most recent nations to join the cooperative program.
The WHO chief said that with more than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates under development, COVAX represents "the largest portfolio of potential COVID-19 vaccines and the most effective way to share safe and effective vaccines equitably across the world."
Tedros maintains that the "equitably sharing of vaccines is the fastest way to safeguard high-risk communities, stabilize health systems and drive a truly global economic recovery."
The United States is not part of the COVAX program, calling it too constraining. Earlier this year, the Trump administration said it was withdrawing support for WHO, saying they were too heavily influenced by China, which last month announced it would be part of the COVAX program. Trump has blamed China for the global spread of the disease.
In his recorded remarks from Beijing to last month's U.N. General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping said any attempt to politicize the pandemic should be rejected. He said the WHO should be given a leading role in the international response to the coronavirus.
Tedros said that as the virus spreads in Europe and other parts of the world, "sharing lifesaving health supplies globally, including personal protective equipment, supplies of oxygen, dexamethasone and vaccines when they're proven to be safe and effective, we can save lives and get through this pandemic."