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25th Jan 2021

Coronavirus

EU launches funding drive for Covid-19 vaccine

  • The commission is taking a three-pronged approach: €4bn to research vaccines, €2bn for treatments and €1.5bn to develop testing kits (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission launches on Monday (4 May) the coronavirus global response framework to raise €7.5bn to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

This joint action is in response to the World Health Organization (WHO) call to speed up the development of vaccines, treatment and testing capacity, ensuring that is equally "available to everyone and at affordable prices".

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The initiative was proposed to the G20 group of world leaders by the president of the commission Ursula von der Leyen last month.

"We need to develop a vaccine, to produce it and deploy it to every corner of the world," von der Leyen said ahead of the announcement.

This initiative will take place in cooperation with Saudi Arabia, which holds the current presidency of the G20, the United States, France, Germany, Norway and the UK - although Italy has also been invited to join the list.

According to EU officials, these countries were selected due to their track-record linked to research and funding initiatives.

'Agenda of hope'

"This is an agenda of hope and the commission is deploying its full power to unite countries to find a vaccine and diagnosis treatment as quick as possible," EU officials said.

The commission is taking a three-pronged approach: €4bn to research vaccines, €2bn for treatments and €1.5bn to develop testing kits.

These partnerships aim to bring together scientists, regulators, funders, international organisations and product-developers to scale up international efforts towards "one single narrative and one single goal".

"The money will not go to the European Commission. We are taking the initiative, creating a platform, registering donations, but everything will go directly to the partners", EU sources specified.

"We will accept direct and indirect donations, which can be used for parallel programs like Horizon 2020, as long as they are on our agenda," they added.

The WHO, G20, Africa Union, Word Bank and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation will be in charge of the oversight of these partnerships and holding them accountable.

In the next stage, the commission aims to collect additional resources to strengthen the health care systems globally.

"We would hope that the work in these areas will also help us to identify what are the additional needs, to bring this to the attention of the world and mobilise the extra resources needed," EU sources said.

Rival initial domestic responses

Additionally, this joint call for action aims to avoid national or fragmented efforts that could pose a risk for the most vulnerable economies across the world.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, many countries have had a national-focussed initial domestic response.

In the EU, the outbreak prompted tensions between member states, for instance, when some countries initially decided to impose export bans on medical supplies.

"Now there is a fertile ground and everyone wants to work together, but there are difficult questions," EU officials said, referring to the risk of having rival 'health nationalisms'.

Meanwhile, the head of the US National Academy of Medicine, Victor Dzau, committed to helping raise funds for von der Leyen's initiative - distancing himself from US president Donald Trump's recent attitude of cutting funding to the WHO.

"The initiative is to help all countries - including low-income countries - because the big focus is not only how you accelerate the development of vaccines, treatment and diagnostics but how do you have equitable distribution and access?," he told the Financial Times.

This initiative, scheduled to last two years, could be extended until results are ultimately obtained.

International partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the World Bank.

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