Leaders aim to drum up billions for virus vaccine research

AP , Monday 4 May 2020

WHO Director
Executive Director of the World Health Organization's (WHO) emergencies program Mike Ryan speaks at a news conference on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland February 6, 2020. (REUTERS)

An alliance of world leaders is holding a virtual summit later Monday hoping to drum up billions of dollars to fund research into a vaccine for the new coronavirus as well as develop new treatments and more efficient testing.

Governments have reported around 3.5 million infections and more than 247,000 deaths from the virus, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. But deliberately concealed outbreaks, low testing rates and the strain on health care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is much greater.

People in many countries across the globe, and notably in Europe this week, are cautiously returning to work, but authorities remain wary of a second wave of infections, and a vaccine is the only real silver bullet to allow something like normal life to resume.

The video-conference's aim is to gather around 4 billion euros ($4.37 billion) for vaccine research, some 2 billion euros for treatments and 1.5 billion ($1.64 billion) for testing. Officials say that amount is just the start, as much more will be needed in the months ahead to scale up production and distribution.

In a statement ahead of the meeting, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Norway and top European Union officials said that the money raised will be channeled mostly through recognized global health organizations. No new structure would be set up to handle the funds raised.

``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 leaders said.

The EU's executive commission had hoped that the United States, where more than 67,000 have died from the coronavirus, would take part, but it remained unclear what role, if any, Washington might play in the vaccine donor conference.

EU officials say that pledges made toward vaccine research since Jan. 30, not just on Monday, will be counted as donations at this conference.

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