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US$8bn pledged to make COVID-19 vaccine a unique public good

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US$8bn pledged to make COVID-19 vaccine a unique public good

WHO pledged what at virtual COVID-19 fundraiser

WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

The World Health Organisation (WHO), has praised the spirit of solidarity demonstrated by world leaders and donors at a virtual fundraising summit organised by the European Union on Monday May 4, in which over US$8bn was pledged to support the development of a vaccine and drugs to fight the Corona-virus.

WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement following the meeting of leaders from 40 countries that: “Today’s event, some €7.4 billion (Approx. US$8bn), was pledged for research and development for vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. This was a powerful and inspiring demonstration of global solidarity.

Billions are needed to speed up the process of raising guaranteed funds to coordinate research and incentivise pharmaceutical companies to distribute any vaccines and therapies to poorer countries, something that has not happened with recent outbreaks such as the 2009 swine flu.

Dr. Tedros added: “Today, countries came together not only to pledge their financial support, but also to pledge their commitment to ensuring all people can access life-saving tools for COVID-19; accelerating development of products, but at the same time, access for all.

He added: “But the true measure of success will not only be how fast we can develop safe and effective tools – it will be how equally we can distribute them. None of us can accept a world in which some people are protected while others are not. Everybody should be protected. None of us are safe until all of us are safe.”

Dr. Tedros hailed the pledges as a live demonstration of its mission of Health for All noting that: “The potential for continued waves of infection of COVID-19 across the globe demands that every single person on the planet be protected from this disease.

“This is an opportunity for the world to come together to confront a common threat, but also to forge a common future; a future in which all people enjoy the right to the highest attainable standard of health – and the products that deliver that right,” added Dr. Tedros.

The European Union, which hosted the event, topped the pledges with Euro1.4bn (Approx. US$1.5bn), followed by Germany U$573m, France US$540m, Saudi Arabia US$540m, Britain US$ 482m, Italy US$110m, Spain US$110m. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe didn’t specify his country pledge for the vaccine effort but said his country would put aside US$880m for fighting the disease locally and internationally.

US Pop star Madona also pledged one million dollars.

The leaders declared in a joint statement following the fundraiser that: “If we can develop a vaccine that is produced by the world, for the whole world, this will be an unique global public good of the 21st century. Together with our partners, we commit to making it available, accessible and affordable to all.”

The declaration answered the call issued earlier on Friday by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who tweeted that: “A COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Not a vaccine for one country or one region — but a vaccine that is affordable, safe, effective, easily-administered and universally available — for everyone, everywhere.”

WHO’s mission on Health for All, that emphasises support development of vaccines and drugs for all, by especially focusing on diseases that disproportionately affect poor people, has received unique attention from the world’s second richest man Bill Gates and his wife Melinda through their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

On Monday, Melinda Gates posted on twitter that: “To overcome #COVID19 the world doesn’t just need science. It needs a commitment to help people beat this virus wherever they live. Our foundation is proud to support this effort and will join in pledging the resources & brainpower to confront this globally.”

On February 5, 2020 Bill Gates and his wife pledged some US$100m towards strengthening, detection, isolation and treatment efforts especially for at-risk populations; and develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostics.

And in the wake of President Donald Trump’s move to suspend the U.S government’s funding for the WHO, Gates pledged an additional US$150m taking his tally to US$250m for the Corona-virus.

Gates followed his pledge with a scolding tweet for Trump saying: “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.”

Competition for a vaccine

The process of developing a vaccine against the Corona-virus is viewed as an unprecedented effort by the scientific community that has brought the scientific community to focus on a single challenge.

Over 100 companies are competing for the vaccine with a few already into human trails in the United States and Britain. Although US President has promised a vaccine will be available by end of 2020, scientists believe that this could take a few more months even with the speed and urgency added.

The US, China and India skipped the fundraiser event.

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