EXCLUSIVE-Germany won't buy vaccines through WHO's COVAX scheme - sources

BERLIN, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Germany has joined France in deciding against buying potential COVID-19 vaccines through a World Health Organization (WHO) programme, although it supports the scheme, government sources told Reuters on Friday.

The sources said Berlin was not buying supplies through the WHO’s COVAX programme because it was already sourcing potential vaccines through a European Union scheme.

The WHO has set Friday as a deadline for its members to join COVAX, which aims to buy COVID-19 vaccines and ensure they are fairly and efficiently distributed around the world.

But while 92 lower-income nations are seeking assistance via COVAX, many wealthier countries have yet to sign up as they scramble to secure supplies separately.

The sources said Germany supported COVAX and noted the European Commission was contributing 400 million euros ($474 million) from the EU’s development budget to the scheme.

However, it was not clear whether Germany would contribute additional national funds to the programme, as France plans to.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said earlier that Germany had already secured more potential vaccine doses than the country has inhabitants - a common strategy among wealthier countries as it is not yet clear which vaccines might work.

“I will be happy to give other countries in the world some of the vaccines that have been contractually agreed with us if it turns out that we have more than we need,” said Spahn. “But I’ll play it safe for now.”

$1 = 0.8444 euros Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Editing by Mark Potter