Geneva: The World Health Organization said on Monday that some 172 countries are engaging with the COVAX facility designed to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. It added that more funding is needed, and countries need now to make binding commitments.

WHO officials said that those countries which wish to be part of the global COVAX plan have until August 31 to submit expressions of interest. It added the confirmation of intention to join is due by September 18, and initial payments are due by October 9.

According to a media report, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the facility was critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, and would not only pool risk for countries developing and buying vaccines, but also ensure prices are kept "as low as possible".

The report added that COVAX is co-led by the GAVI vaccines alliance, the WHO and the CEPI Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It is designed to guarantee equitable access globally to COVID-19 vaccines once they are developed and authorised for use.