TAIPEI, Taiwan — China said Friday it will join Covax, an international effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines to about two-thirds of the world population by 2022, in a reversal that makes the country the biggest player in the vaccine development race to join the initiative.

China, along with the United States and Russia, previously declined to join the World Health Organization-led program, known as the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, on its Sept. 18 enrollment deadline. Beijing has already promised vaccines to a number of allied countries and geopolitically important states it has sought to woo, such as Pakistan and the Philippines, and Chinese officials said in recent weeks they were not sure they could join Covax and still fulfill those bilateral commitments.

In a statement announcing the Covax deal, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China is confident it could ramp up manufacturing. “We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support Covax,” Hua said.

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