The European Commission stated that it is going to contribute 400 million euros ($476 million) to an initiative that is led by the WHO for buying coronavirus or COVID-19 vaccines but did not give any clarification on whether EU states will acquire the shots through the WHOscheme.

The initiative, dubbed COVAX, targets at buying for all nations in the world two billion doses of probable coronavirus vaccine shots from several vaccine makers by the end of 2021.

The EU financial support will be provided through guarantees, the Commission said. A spokeswoman for the EU executive did not clarify how these guarantees would be offered and why they were preferred to direct funding in cash. "Today, the Commission is announcing a 400 million euro contribution to COVAX for working together in purchasing future vaccines to the benefit of low and middle-income countries," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday.

EU to Contribute for WHO Initiative

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The EU Commission is negotiating advance purchases of COVID-19 vaccines with several drugmakers on behalf of the 27 EU states and has said in past weeks EU governments cannot buy vaccines through parallel procurement schemes. Asked whether its guidance to EU states not to buy vaccines through COVAX was now dropped, a commission spokeswoman declined to elaborate.

"The detailed terms and conditions for the EU's participation and contribution will be worked out in the coming days and weeks," the Commission said. The Commission added in a statement that it was ready, together with EU states, "to put expertise and resources at work within COVAX to accelerate and scale-up development and manufacturing of global supply of vaccines for citizens across the world, in poor and rich countries."

Critics have said that by buying vaccines exclusively through an EU scheme, the Commission was effectively undermining the WHO-led initiative. The Commission said it was committed to donating to developing countries some of the vaccines it buys through its procurement scheme.

(With agency inputs)