$8.8b global pledge for virus vaccines

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Foreign Desk Report

LONDON: Global leaders across the world on Thursday committed $8.8 billion to the global vaccines alliance Gavi to support immunisation programmes affected by coronavirus. The online meeting beat a target to raise $7.4 billion to provide vaccines at a much reduced cost to 300 million children worldwide over the next five years.
More than 50 countries took part as well as individuals such as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation pledged $1.6 billion. Gavi also launched a new initiative to purchase potential COVID-19 vaccines, scale-up production and support delivery to developing nations, which raised $567 million in seed money. “Together, we rise to fulfil the greatest shared endeavour of our lifetimes the triumph of humanity over disease,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the summit.
“Today we make the choice to unite, to forge a path of global cooperation.”
Scientists around the world are racing to develop and test a coronavirus vaccine and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it must be available to everyone.
“A vaccine must be seen as a global public good a people’s vaccine, which a growing number of world leaders are calling for,” he said in a video message. There needs to be “global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access”.
The pandemic has exposed new ruptures in international cooperation, notably with US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the World Health Organisation (WHO). But Gavi chief executive Seth Berkley insisted there must be a “global perspective”.
“At the end of the day, if you have large outbreaks of COIVD anywhere in the world, it threatens the world,” he said.
The United States pledged $1.16 billion to Gavi’s fundraising drive, and Trump sent a recorded message to the conference. “As the coronavirus has shown, there are no borders. It doesn’t discriminate,” he said. “It’s mean, it’s nasty. But we can all take care of it together… we will work hard. We will work strong.”
The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 6.5 million and killed over 385,000 people since emerging in China last December, according to a media tally of official sources. If a vaccine is developed, Microsoft founder Gates said Gavi hoped to be able to buy it for the poorest countries.
He said pharmaceutical companies had been working together to try to secure the required production capacity.
“It’s been amazing, the pharmaceutical companies stepping up to say ‘yes, even if our vaccine is not the best, we will make our factories available’,” he told BBC radio. Stay-at-home orders have been imposed across the world to stem the spread of coronavirus, causing huge economic disruption and the suspension of routine immunisation programmes for preventable diseases such as measles and polio.
The WHO, UN children’s agency UNICEF and Gavi warned last month that vaccine services were disrupted in nearly 70 countries, affecting some 80 million children under the age of one.