G20 urged to fill $4.5 bn gap in global Covid-19 vaccine fund

·2-min read
A slew of positive clinical vaccine trials is building hope of an end to the Covid-19 pandemic but a funding shortfall threatens efforts to ensure worldwide availability
A slew of positive clinical vaccine trials is building hope of an end to the Covid-19 pandemic but a funding shortfall threatens efforts to ensure worldwide availability

G20 nations must help plug a $4.5 billion funding gap for a WHO-led program to distribute coronavirus vaccines and pave the way for an end to the pandemic, a letter seen by AFP on Friday said.

The letter, sent ahead of this weekend's virtual G20 summit, was signed by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.

"A commitment by G20 leaders at the G20 Summit in Riyadh to invest substantially in the ACT-Accelerator's immediate funding gap of $4.5 billion will immediately save lives, lay the groundwork for mass procurement and delivery of COVID-19 tools around the world, and provide an exit strategy out of this global economic and human crisis," the letter dated November 16 said.

"With this funding, and a joint commitment to spend a proportion of future stimulus on the COVID-19 tools needed globally, the G20 will build a foundation to end the pandemic," added the letter addressed to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the current G20 president.

ACT-Accelerator is an initiative led by the WHO that promotes an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments globally.

There was no immediate comment from G20 organisers in Riyadh.

Major pharmaceutical companies are now closing in on vaccines against the virus, amid a global spike in cases that has caused some countries to reimpose restrictions to curb transmission.

"The recent breakthroughs on COVID-19 vaccines offer a ray of hope" but they must "reach everyone", UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Friday.

"Over the past seven months, countries have invested $10 billion in the effort to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. But $28 billion more is needed —- including $4.2 billion before the end of the year," he added.

In September, the United Nations estimated that the ACT-Accelerator had received only some $3 billion of the $38 billion needed to meet the goal of producing and delivering two billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments and 500 million diagnostic tests over the next year.

International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva warned on Thursday that the global economy faces a hard road back from the Covid-19 downturn even as a medical solution to the crisis is now in sight.

The Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 55 million people and caused more than 1.3 million deaths worldwide, according to an AFP tally, and wreaked a grievous toll on the global economy.

The IMF expects the world economy to contract by 4.4 percent this year.

"The lack of an adequately financed global exit strategy is an existential threat to the economic and health security of all countries and their citizens," said the letter to the G20 president.

"Only by tackling the pandemic globally, will economic vitality be restored and a catastrophe be averted."

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