BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 5, 2020 (ENS) – To battle the deadly coronavirus, six countries, the European Commission and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Monday pledged billions in new funding to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The money will support universal access to a future COVID-19 vaccine and also will support the immunization of hundreds of millions of children with existing vaccines against pneumonia, measles, and polio.
The commitments were made at the May 4 Coronavirus Global Response pledging teleconference hosted by the European Union. The pledging event was co-convened by the European Union, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. The United States was conspicuously absent.
The Commission registered pledges totaling €7.4 billion (US$8 billion) from donors worldwide, including a pledge of €1.4 billion from the Commission itself.
This is considered a solid starting point for the worldwide pledging marathon, which begins today and continues until the end of May.
The goal is to gather funding to ensure the collaborative development and universal deployment of diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines against the coronavirus COVID-19. To date, the virus has infected more than 3.25 million people worldwide, causing 243,540 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said Monday, “Today the world showed extraordinary unity for the common good. Governments and global health organizations joined forces against coronavirus. With such commitment, we are on track for developing, producing, and deploying a vaccine for all.”
“However,” said von der Leyen, “this is only the beginning. We need to sustain the effort and to stand ready to contribute more. The pledging marathon will continue. After governments, civil society and people worldwide need to join in, in a global mobilization of hope and resolve.”
The Coronavirus Global Response Initiative is comprised of three partnerships for testing, treating, and preventing underpinned by health systems strengthening.
Donors are invited to continue pledging to the Coronavirus Global Response. They can choose which of three priorities will utilize their donations – testing, treatment, or prevention. They can also donate to the workstream of the Coronavirus Global Response, aiming to help health systems worldwide cope with the pandemic.
Gavi’s replenishment will conclude at the Global Vaccine Summit, to be hosted by the UK government on June 4.
Gavi says at least US$7.4 billion is needed for the 2021-25 period to protect 300 million children in 68 lower-income countries against deadly diseases.
“This is a massive vote of confidence in Gavi’s mission,” said Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian-born economist and international development expert who chairs the Gavi Board.
“It underlines how much we all will need the Vaccine Alliance in the coming years, both to prevent a resurgence of diseases like polio or measles as well as to ensure the most vulnerable, wherever they live, have access to an eventual COVID-19 vaccine,” she said.
An effective vaccine could be at least a year away, as companies throughout the world, particularly in the United States, Europe, and China, race to find a vaccine. Several trials are already underway.
Participants in the EU’s Coronavirus Global Response teleconference made the following funding commitments to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance:
- – Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg pledged US$1 billion to Gavi, including US$400 million for the International Finance Facility for Immunisation, an increase from US$884.5 million in total funding for the 2016-2020 period.
- – Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte committed €120 million in direct funding to Gavi, an increase from Italy’s previous €100 million five-year direct pledge for the 2016-2020 period.
- – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe committed US$100 million in initial funding to Gavi, an increase from US$94.8 million for the 2016-2020 period.
- – Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez committed €50 million to Gavi, which comes in addition to Spain’s existing commitments for the 2021-2025 period for Gavi amounting to €47 million.
- – Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar committed €18 million to Gavi, an increase from €15 million for the previous five-year period.
- – Finland’s Minister of Social Care and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen committed €2.5 million to Gavi, the country’s first pledge to the Vaccine Alliance since its inception in 2000.
- – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed US$50 million of new funding to Gavi to support its future efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries.
“In order to beat COVID-19, the world needs more than great science,” said Gates Foundation co-founder Bill Gates, who also co-founded the computer and software multinational corporation Microsoft. “It needs great humanity, the commitment to help people beat this virus no matter where they live. This effort will help us do that.”
“With the collective resources and brainpower pledged today, we’ll finally be able to attack this virus in the way it is attacking us – globally,” said Gates.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after pledging €600 million to Gavi’s 2021-25 period at the World Economic Forum in January, committed further funding to Gavi as part of a total €525 million commitment to the Global Response Initiative.
Australia, the Netherlands, China, South Korea, and Luxembourg also committed to continuing their support to Gavi. They promised to make a pledge at or before next month’s Global Vaccine Summit.
“This is absolutely vital funding, which will help us both vaccinate millions of the most vulnerable children as well as help us deliver eventual COVID-19 vaccines to the most vulnerable,” Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said Monday.
“The development of a COVID-19 vaccine is our best chance of beating this disease, which is why today’s pledging conference was so important. However, we will only defeat COVID-19 if vaccines are available to everyone, no matter where they live,” Dr. Berkley said. “Today we have set out some initial proposals for how we can make this happen, and we will now be working with our partners to turn this quickly into action.”
The pledges made at the May 4 conference build on recent commitments made by several countries.
On Monday, Greece pledged €3 million to the European Commission-led coronavirus vaccine research fund.
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, “Today is an important day for Greece. We are gradually starting to relax the very restrictive measures we have taken over the past seven weeks. We have been relatively successful in ‘leveling’ the curve, but we all know that unless we discover a vaccine, we will not be completely safe.”
Last week the UK pledged £330 million per year to Gavi for the 2021-25 period, following a commitment from the United States of $290 million, and other contributions from Saudi Arabia, Reed Hastings & Patty Quillin, Alwaleed Philanthropies, and TikTok, the short video platform, which pledged US$10 million.
Separate from this funding, Gavi is proposing a new mechanism, a form of Advance Market Commitment (AMC), that would speed up the availability of COVID-19 vaccines by creating healthy market dynamics through incentives and investment.
Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunize a whole generation, over 760 million children, and has prevented more than 13 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries.