UN chief calls for ‘people’s vaccine’ at virtual global summit

World leaders have pledged $8.8bn in immunisation funding

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 8, 2020 United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press conference at the African Union headquarters during the 33rd African Union (AU) Summit, in Addis Ababa. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged restraint by US authorities toward protestors and believes allegations of police violence should be investigated, his spokesperson said June 1, 2020. Protests should remain peaceful, while "authorities must show restraint in responding to demonstrators in US as in any other country in the world," Guterres believes, according to spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
 / AFP / MICHAEL TEWELDE

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has addressed the Global Vaccine Summit, calling for a “people’s vaccine” in the fight against Covid-19.

Global leaders met in London and raised $8.8 billion (Dh32.32bn) in additional funds at a pledging conference organised by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on Thursday.

At the summit, the Vaccine Alliance launched an advance market commitment for Covid-19 vaccines.

The financial instrument is to motivate companies that make an eventual Covid-19 vaccine to produce enough for all countries.

Its initial goal of $2bn was to ensure access for developing countries to the shot.

The online conference, attended by private and public sector representatives from more than 50 countries, including heads of government from the G7 and G20, came at a time of greater attention to public health during the coronavirus outbreak.

As the world works towards a vaccine against the coronavirus, Gavi faces the challenges of maintaining levels of immunisation for other diseases while public health systems are under threat and preparing for the introduction of a possible preventive shot.

Mr Guterres stressed the importance of routine global vaccination, calling immunisation the “most important public health intervention in history”.

He said 20 million people around the world still did not receive their necessary full complement of vaccines and that with the coronavirus pandemic, reaching these people would only get harder.

“A vaccine itself is not enough,” Mr Guterres said, referring to the development of a Covid-19 jab.

He said global stability was needed “to make sure everyone everywhere has access”.

Reem Al Hashimy, the UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation, addressed the summit and said the country remained committed to immunising the world’s children.

"I reaffirm my country's commitment to freeing the next generation from disease and creating a healthier, more prosperous world for all through immunisation," Ms Al Hashimy said.

She said the UAE had sent more than 700 tonnes of medical supplies, valued at $130 million, to 60 countries to fight Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were among the world leaders to pledge funds to Gavi.

US President Donald Trump made an appearance at the start of the conference saying the outbreak of the coronavirus had shown there were “no borders” when it came to disease and Covid-19 “doesn’t discriminate”.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation promised $1.6bn to Gavi, with the US the third largest contributor.

“To beat the Covid-19 pandemic, the world needs more than breakthrough science," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation.

"It needs breakthrough generosity. And that’s what we’re seeing today as leaders across the public and private sectors are stepping up to support Gavi.

“When Covid-19 vaccines are ready, this funding and global co-ordination will ensure that people all over the world will be able to access them.”

The UK remains the Vaccine Alliance’s largest donor, pledging £1.65bn over the next five years.

In an opening address, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hosting the event, said he hoped the world would unite around the struggle against disease.

“Britain has been honoured to host this summit today," Mr Johnson said.

"You can count on our full contribution as together we rise to fulfil the greatest shared endeavour of our lifetime – the triumph of humanity over disease, now and for the generations that follow.

“As we make the choice today to unite and forge a path of global co-operation, let us also renew our collective resolve to find the vaccine that can defeat coronavirus."

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