Governments around the world on Thursday pledged $8.8 billion for global vaccines alliance Gavi to help immunisation programmes stalled by the coronavirus outbreak and support the development and distribution of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The online meeting beat a funding target of $7.4 million for Gavi to provide vaccines at a reduced cost to 300 million children worldwide over the next five years, the group said.

More than 50 countries took part as well as individuals such as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation pledged $1.6 billion.

“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.”

Gavi and partners also launched a new financing drive to purchase potential COVID-19 vaccines, scale-up production and support delivery to developing nations.

Scientists around the world are racing to develop and test a vaccine for coronavirus 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 needed 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 Organization (WHO).

But Johnson said helping developing countries would benefit everyone.

“This support for routine immunisations will shore up poorer countries’ healthcare systems to deal with coronavirus — and so help to stop the global spread,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“This virus has shown how connected we are. We’re fighting an invisible enemy. And no one is safe frankly until we are all safe.”

The United States pledged $1.16 billion, and Trump sent a recorded message to the conference, telling delegates: “As the coronavirus has shown, there are no borders. It doesn’t discriminate.

“It’s mean, it’s nasty. But we can all take care of it together… we will work hard. We will work strong.”

Microsoft founder Gates earlier 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.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 6.5 million and killed over 385,000 people since emerging in China last December, according to an AFP tally of official sources.

Stay-at-home orders were imposed across the world, causing huge economic disruption and the suspension of many routine immunisation services.

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.

Polio eradication drives were suspended in dozens of countries, while measles vaccination campaigns were also put on hold in 27 countries, UNICEF said.

Source : News 18

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