PARIS – European governments and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged Thursday to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency funds for a global effort aimed at ensuring eventual vaccines against the coronavirus are quickly available to poor countries — though it remains unclear how that might actually happen.
The money will go to vaccine development and distribution efforts coordinated by a World Health Organization program called ACT-Accelerator. That includes Covax, an ambitious but troubled global project to buy and deliver virus vaccines for the world’s poorest people.
None of the experimental COVID-19 vaccines being tested has finished the advanced testing needed to prove their safety and efficacy, but several might have data to present in the coming weeks.
“If people in low- and middle-income countries miss out on vaccines,...the virus will continue to spread, and the economic recovery will continue to be delayed,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday at the Paris Peace Forum, where the pledges were announced.
France and the European Union's executive commission each promised 100 million euros (about $118 million) for the WHO vaccine efforts. Spain promised 50 million euros (about $59 million), and the Gates Foundation promised $70 million (about 59.3 million euros).
Germany and other European governments have already pledged similar funds. The new financing is in addition to the funds that countries previously contributed to Covax.
Criticizing rich countries that he said are ordering many more vaccines than they have people, Tedros said, “This is a moment for saying ‘no’ to vaccine nationalism and ‘yes’ to all our shared humanity.”
Britain, for example, has ordered 350 million vaccine doses for its population of about 67 million, although some vaccines require two doses. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly promised that U.K. residents will be “at the front of the pack” for vaccine delivery.