EU leaders to hold coronavirus vaccine virtual fundraising conference
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.”
The event, which will be hosted by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, is aiming to raise at least €7.5 billion ($8.2 billion). The drive not only aims to pool resources from across the globe to develop a vaccine and treatments, but also to make sure that such treatments are universally available at affordable prices.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giueseppe Conte are all expected to participate.
The three European leaders 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.
Spahn and Trump differ on timeline
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Sunday that it could take years to develop a vaccine. Although there have been a number of promising developments, the production of a safe and effective vaccine remains one of “the most challenging” tasks in medicine, Spahn told ARD broadcaster. The country began human trials on a product last Wednesday, with a small group of 12 participants.
“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.”
The comments followed the announcement of a new project called “Operation Warp Speed,” which aims to speed up vaccine development by several months and have 300 million doses available by January.
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.
lc/msh (DW, AFP, dpa, Reuters, epd)