Leaders pledge billions for Covid vaccine

Elias Hubbard
May 5, 2020

He noted the U.S. "was on the sidelines" but added it did not compromise or slow down the process to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

President Donald Trump's brand of "America First" isolationism was on full display Monday as the USA declined to participate in a worldwide pledge drive which raised more than $8 billion during its kick-event to create a global fund to develop and deploy diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines to fight the coronavirus pandemic. "The pledging marathon will continue".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "the race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus [was] not a competition between countries, but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes".

2 U.S. senior officials mostly reading from script for 33 min., sometimes same info.

A list of world leaders due to speak seen by Reuters did not include any United States officials. "We support this pledging effort by the EU". "It is one of many pledging efforts that are going on and the United States is at the forefront".

But the initiative was undermined by the absence of the United States, with President Donald Trump in open warfare with the World Health Organization over its handling of the pandemic.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she regretted that decision, as well as Washington's absence on Monday. "When you are in a crisis, you manage it and you do it jointly with others".

In addition, there are concerns the cash pledged won't necessarily mean new funding, but could include previous aid.

Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the Group of 20 industrialised countries, has promised US$500 million (S$708.6 million).

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that beating the virus "will take more than making a vaccine available to the very highest bidder".

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also among those who have signed up to the initiative.

"Those who invent it of course will be fairly paid, but access will be given to people across the globe by the organisation we choose", Macron said.

"Like all countries, Israel is now trying to find the right balance between protecting the health of our citizens by preventing another spike in infections, and enabling the reopening of our economy, but, ultimately, to ensure both the public health and national prosperity, we must all work together on improving diagnostics, accelerating therapies and ultimately developing a vaccine", he said in a pre-recorded message.

Just over an hour into the summit, some 5 billion euros ($8.5b) had been pledged, according to a European Commission tally.

No US officials were included on a list of conference speakers, and European Union diplomats confirmed that the US was not participating despite having the highest number of citizens diagnosed with COVID-19 in the world, according to Reuters.

The video conference's aim is to gather around 4 billion euros ($6.8b) for vaccine research, some 2 billion euros ($3.4b) for treatments and 1.5 billion euros ($2.6b) for testing.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a pledge of 1 billion euros ($1.7b) from the EU's executive arm.

Britain will hold another online donor summit on June 4 for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI).

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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