WHO says US$700 million has been raised for COVID-19 vaccines initiative for poor

The World Health Organization says it is targeting delivery of two billion doses of effective, approved COVID-19 vaccines for the poor by the end of 2021

The World Health Organization (WHO) says international donors have raised US$700 million – less than half the target – to purchase future coronavirus vaccines for poor countries, in a global initiative to ensure that eventual vaccines do not go to rich countries only.

The COVAX Advanced Market Commitment has an initial target of $2 billion to buy the vaccines.

“Up to today, what has been mobilised so far is $700 million … So there is a great deal of work to be done to diversify the possible sources of funding,” Matshidiso Moeti, Africa regional director for WHO, told an online press briefing.

COVAX is co-led by the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

Its aim is to deliver two billion doses of effective, approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.

At least eight African countries, including Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Namibia and South Africa, have agreed to self-finance access to the vaccine, Moeti said.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said last month that the continent had started to “bend the curve” of COVID-19 infections slowly as measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing constrain the spread of the disease.

WHO’s financial viability

However, at the same time, the US president, Donald Trump, has moved formally to withdraw the United States from WHO.

The president had made his intentions clear in late May, accusing WHO of being under China’s control in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Despite calls from the European Union and others, he said he would pull out of the UN agency and redirect funds.

He has notified the UN and the United States Congress of his intentions, though the process could take at least a year.

Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN secretary general, confirmed that the US had notified WHO of its withdrawal, which will take effect from 6 July 2021.

The US is the global health agency’s single largest contributor, providing more than US$400 million in 2019, roughly 15% of its total budget.

Under a Congress resolution in 1948, the US can withdraw but must give a year’s notice and pay outstanding fees. Dujarric stressed that these conditions should be met.

The withdrawal will call into question the WHO’s financial viability and the future of its many programmes promoting health care and tackling disease.

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