BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil, which has the world's second-highest coronavirus death toll, has decided to join the global COVID-19 vaccine partnership known as COVAX and will earmark 2.5 billion reais ($454 million) for securing vaccines through it, President Jair Bolsonaro's office said.
Brazil plans to use the COVAX facility, which gives access to several vaccine candidates in development globally, to buy enough supplies to immunize 10% of its population by the end of 2021, the office said in a statement on Thursday. That should cover Brazil's "priority populations," it said.
Bolsonaro will issue decrees laying the legal groundwork to join COVAX in the official gazette, it said.
Brazil and Argentina requested more time to commit to COVAX, which is led by the World Health Organization, after the deadline to join passed last Friday, saying they intended to join as soon as possible.
Brazil has the world's third-worst coronavirus outbreak after the United States and India, with more than 4.6 million cases. The death toll in Latin America's largest country is 139,808, the second highest after the United States.
Bolsonaro has been criticized by health experts for minimizing the severity of the coronavirus and opposing lockdowns in order to keep the economy going.
A total of 156 countries had joined the COVAX facility, which aims to deliver at least 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021, the WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance said on Monday .
They expected a further 38 rich countries to join in coming days and said discussions continued with China. The United States has not signed up, having secured future supplies through bilateral deals.
GAVI CEO Seth Berkley said on Thursday that the Cayman Islands, Chile, Israel, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Arab Emirates had signed up.
Taiwan, which is not a member of WHO, said on Friday it had formally joined COVAX on Sept. 18. China views Taiwan as its own with no right to attend international bodies as a sovereign state. There was no immediate reply from the WHO for comment on Taiwan joining COVAX.
($1 = 5.51 reais)
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Jake Spring in Brazil and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Angus MacSwan)