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Massive shortfall as nations respond to WHO Covid appeal

UK, Canada and Germany boost funds for global Covid-19 vaccine initiative but billions more needed

Countries at the United Nations General Assembly have pledged a further $1.2 billion for global efforts towards providing equal access to Covid-19 vaccines. But even on top of existing pledges of $2.6bn, this falls well short of the $38bn called for by the World Health Organization for vaccines, drugs and diagnostics.

In its investment case for the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator—the framework for the global medical response to the coronavirus—published on 24 September, the WHO estimated R&D costs alone as $2.4bn for vaccines, $2bn for drugs and $300,000 for diagnostics.

New commitments over recent days include £571m ($732m) from the United Kingdom, C$440m ($332m) from Canada, and €100m ($117m) from Germany. The funds are largely ear-marked for supporting low- and middle-income countries to procure vaccine doses through the Covax equal access mechanism.

In addition, 16 pharmaceutical companies along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released a statement on 30 September that they support equal access mechanisms such as Covax and are committed to making products under development affordable to lower-income countries.

Speaking at a UN event, Bill Gates said the companies were committed to “forgoing profits and adjusting pricing to make their products was affordable as possible” but that more public funding was needed to pay for them.

Covax, which is co-led by the World Health Organization, the vaccine alliance Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, is aiming to deliver two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021. Seth Berkley, chief executive of Gavi, praised the new commitments but said a further $2bn was needed in “urgent funding” by December, with “at least a further $5bn for 2021”.