The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries to desist from the nationalisation of COVID-19 vaccines and has requested that they join a vaccine pact.

The call from WHO comes as countries across the world race to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

Following a letter to all member states requesting them to join the vaccine arm of the Act-Accelerator, WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus announced that 172 countries have signed up to COVAX Global Vaccines Facility.

The facility is a critical mechanism for joint procurement and pooling risk across multiple vaccines so that whatever vaccine is proven to be safe and effective – all countries within the facility will be able to access them.

The facility has both the largest and most diverse COVID-19 vaccine portfolio in the world.

“New research outlines that global competition for vaccine doses could lead to prices spiking exponentially in comparison to a collaborative effort such as the COVAX Facility.

“It would also lead to a prolonged pandemic as only a small number of countries would get most of the supply. Vaccine nationalism only helps the virus,” said Ghebreyesus.

Presently, there are nine vaccines that are part of this dynamic portfolio; which is constantly being reviewed and optimised to ensure access to the best possible range of products.

“Even now discussions are ongoing with four more producers and a further nine vaccines are currently under evaluation for the longer term,” said Ghebreyesus.

The success of the COVAX Facility hinges not only on countries signing up to it, but also filling key funding gaps for both the research and development work and to support lower-income economies within the facility.