Wednesday, 28 September 2022

World leaders commit billions for COVID-19 vaccine research

A video conference summit saw world leaders pledge $8 billion (EUR 7.4 billion) to fund vaccine research for the fatal viral disease COVID-19. The summit, convened by the European Union (EU), emphasised that the money will also be used for the widespread distribution of any vaccine to poor countries in an equitable and timely fashion.

The virtual summit, which took the form of a pledging marathon, saw the personal attendance of the leaders of Germany, France, Spain, Canada, Italy, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Jordan, Israel and the EU. The global leaders – or their representatives – spoke on by one and offered contributions of any amount they could muster. For instance, Romania committed $200,000, while Canada pledged $850 million.

The European Commission, EU’s executive branch that led the initiative, explained that the money raised will be spent over the next two years to various promising projects worldwide. Ultimately, it aims to deliver affordable, universal access to medication that will combat COVID-19.

French President Emmanuel Macron said any distributed vaccine “won’t belong to anybody.” He stressed that “those who invent it of course will be fairly paid, but access will be given to people across the globe by the organisation we chose.”

EU officials clarified that pharmaceuticals that will receive funding would not have to forgo intellectual property rights on the vaccine, but should commit to make the medication available globally at fair, affordable prices.

Global health diplomacy appears fractured at this time though, as the United States, Russia and India were notably absent in the virtual event. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in a separate summit earlier in the day with other world leaders, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. It also took a weekend of persuasion before China assigned its ambassador to the EU as a representative.

The US, meanwhile, said it skipped “the pledging conference in Europe” as it is already devoting billions into its own coronavirus vaccine research. The country is flying solo in its research for a cure against the viral disease.

The amount pledged is just the start, though. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the amount raised is only equivalent to a “down payment” on what the world needs to fight the virus. “To reach everyone, everywhere, we likely need five times that amount,” he said.

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