7.4 billion euros to fund COVID-19 vaccine research

COVID-19 Vaccine
COVID-19 Vaccine

An EU led virtual summit has built a research and development fund of 7.4 billion euros and urges global cooperation in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Tanzia Haq reports how cooperation without the muscle of the US may not yield desired results.

World leaders at a virtual summit on Monday 4 May pledged 7.4 billion euros to fund the search for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. The countries involved in the funding included Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Norway, South Africa, Israel and the EU council. Despite the talk of global cooperation to combat the pandemic however, India, Russia and the United States remained out of the negotiations. However, the Chinese ambassador to the EU was present at the summit.

The US state department in a press release yesterday which stated that “United States is bringing together the brightest minds in US government agencies, the private sector, universities, and overseas partners to develop vaccines and therapeutic interventions to protect the world from COVID-19”.

While the press release welcomed the summit, calling it the ‘pledging conference in Europe’, it gave no indication that the US was going to be participating in any group effort to find a vaccine.

Meanwhile, the world leaders at the virtual summit clearly stated that the funds raised would be used to provide incentives to pharmaceutical companies to make vaccines accessible to all.

At the summit, French president Emmanuel Macron stated that the vaccine found through their funding will not belong to any particular entity.

“Those who invent it of course will be fairly paid, but access will be given to people across the globe by the organization we chose,” said Macron.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said: “We’ll need a truly global effort, because no one country, and no one pharmaceutical company, will be able to do this alone. The race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries, but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes. It’s humanity against the virus.”

EU representatives said that the companies involved in the development of the vaccine will not lose their IP rights but will be providing the vaccine to the world at affordable prices.

The overall message of the leaders at the summit was to emphasize the importance of global cooperation to battle the pandemic. The leaders also threw their support behind the WHO, an organization the US dropped out of last month, claiming it favored China over the needs of the global health structure.

Representatives of the summit stated that Japan and Norway supplied the largest pledges, with Germany, France and Italy pledging 500 million euros each.

The European Commission announced at the end of the summit that of the 7.5 billion euro budget, 4 billion is set for the research and development of the vaccine, 2 billion for treatments and 1.5 billion will be used for tests and clinical trials.

Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar expressed regret that China and the US were not part of the cooperative effort. He noted that both countries: ”… had incredibly deep medical knowledge innovation and expertise and a strong manufacturing base.”

Whether cooperation will win out in the end or this will become another price war over life-saving medicine is anyone’s guess at this point as millions of lives and the future economies of the world hang in the balance.