The online fundraiser is projected to raise at least €7.5 billion to develop a vaccine and treatments for the virus. Leaders also said that any potential vaccine should be “available, accessible and affordable to all.”
European leaders pledged billions of euros in a digital fundraiser held to raise money for developing a coronavirus vaccine and treatments, putting the online fundraising conference well on its way towards its goal of €7.5 billion ($8.2 billion).
The European Commission kicked off the digital event by promising €1 billion, followed by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel promising €500 million and €525 million from their respective countries.
Non-EU member and event co-chair Norway said the Scandinavian country will provide $1 billion towards the initiative, with the contribution earmarked to go to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI). Norway has financed GAVI, which focuses on global immunization projects, since its inception in 2000.
Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sanchez said his country will contribute €125 million, with €50 million going to the Global Vaccine Alliance and €75 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. COVID-19 has killed over 25,000 people in Spain, making it one of the hardest hit countries in Europe.
The event, hosted by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen aims to pool resources from across the globe from governments and philanthropists in order to develop a vaccine and treatments and to make sure that such treatments are universally available at affordable prices.
President von der Leyen called the commission’s contribution a “team effort,” implying that it includes contributions from EU member states. European Council President Charles Michel said, “The scope of our response must match the scope of the crisis. These are dark days, but they are also days that reveal our humanity.”
The event is being co-chaired by countries including Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and Saudi Arabia, which currently holds the G20 chair. China — the country where the coronavirus outbreak initiated — will only be represented by its ambassador to the EU. Other world leaders The US has declined to participate in any official capacity.
Ahead of the event, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg had expressed regret that the US had chosen to sit out the conference.
“It is a pity the U.S. is not a part of it. When you are in a crisis, you manage it and you do it jointly with others,” she said.
On Sunday, Macron, Merkel, Solberg, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte were among those to sign an open letter published in newspapers ahead of the event.
“We support the WHO and we are delighted to join forces with experienced organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust,” the letter read.
The proceeds will be primarily allocated to established international health organizations and research firms, and will “kickstart an unprecedented global cooperation between scientists and regulators, industry and governments, international organisations, foundations and healthcare professionals,” the letter said.
However, the leaders warned that even if the fundraising target was met, more money would still be needed make the vaccine “available, accessible and affordable to all.”
“If we can develop a vaccine that is produced by the world, for the whole world, this will be a unique global public good of the 21st century,” they said.
Over the weekend, Merkel also vowed a “significant financial contribution” from Germany, without specifying a figure.
“I would be happy if it succeeded in a few months,” he said, while cautioning people not to become too optimistic. ”It could also take years because of course there can also be setbacks, as we have seen with other vaccines.”
Spahn’s cautious line contrasted with that of US President Donald Trump on Sunday. Trump said in an interview with Fox News, admitting that he was being more optimistic than some of his advisers, that “we think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year.”
On Friday, the US approved the emergency use of the anti-viral drug remdesivir, which has shown some initial promise as a treatment against the effects of the COVID-19 disease.
The United Kingdom also started phase human trials for a vaccine last month, through the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute.
Availability the greater challenge?
In addition to the EU leaders, Pope Francis has also publicly backed the conference and called for more donations to the development of a treatment. ”I wish to support and encourage the international collaboration that is taking place with various initiatives to respond adequately and effectively to the serious crisis we are experiencing,” Francis said on Sunday.
German leaders have also called for a vaccine to be made widely available on a global scale,if and when one is developed.
“No matter who gets the vaccine first: It must be ensured that it is available anywhere in the world and at an affordable price. Because that is the only way that we can beat coronavirus on a global scale, otherwise it will come back in waves,” Development Minister Gerd Müller told Monday’s edition of the Rheinische Post newspaper.