Governments, companies and individuals around the world have pledged $8.8bn for a global vaccines alliance to help immunisation programmes stalled by the coronavirus pandemic and support the development and distribution of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
The virtual meeting on Thursday beat a funding target of $7.4bn for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to provide vaccines at a reduced cost to 300 million children worldwide over the next five years, the international group said.
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More than 50 countries took part, as well as individuals such as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation pledged $1.6bn.
“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.”
As scientists around the world race to develop and test a coronavirus vaccine, Gavi and partners also launched a new financing drive to buy potential COVID-19 vaccines, scale up production and support delivery to developing nations.
“A vaccine must be seen as a global public good – a people’s vaccine, which a growing number of world leaders are calling for,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message.
There needed to be “global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access”.
US donates $1.6bn
The pandemic has exposed new ruptures in international cooperation, notably with President Donald Trump’s recent decision to terminate the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, Washington pledged $1.16bn to Gavi, 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.”
Gates, co-founder of tech giant Microsoft, 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.
Last month, the WHO, the UN children’s agency UNICEF and Gavi warned that vaccine services were disrupted in nearly 70 countries, affecting some 80 million children below the age of one.
“Measles is still a global killer”, said Annie Sparrow, assistant professor of population health science and policy at Icahn School of Medicine