Coronavirus: Gates Foundation pledges $70 mln for COVID-19 vaccines, equal access

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The Gates Foundation added another $70 million of funding on Thursday to global efforts to develop and distribute vaccines and treatments against the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it hoped other international donors would now also pledge more.

An extra $50 million will go to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) led by the GAVI vaccine alliance, the foundation said, and another $20 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) which is co-funding development of several COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

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“We have to ensure that everyone gets equal access to tests, drugs, and vaccines when they are available - no matter where you live in the world,” the foundation’s co-chair Melinda Gates said in a statement. “Our pledge today... means we are getting closer to having the resources needed to help the world fight this virus.”

Along with the World Health Organization, CEPI and GAVI are co-leading a global scheme known as the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator which aims to speed up development, production and fair access to COVID-19 drugs, tests and vaccines.

GAVI has said the COVAX facility, which is part of the scheme, aims to have secured 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. It says doses will be made available to people in all COVAX participating countries, with almost a billion doses available to the 92 poorest countries through the Advanced Market Commitment (AMC).

Preliminary positive data this week from trials of two potential COVID-19 shots - one from Pfizer and BioNtech and one developed in Russia - are encouraging signs that the first vaccines against the pandemic disease may be ready to be deployed before the end of 2020.

Mark Suzman, the Gates Foundation’s chief executive officer, told reporters in an online briefing that this was “an auspicious week” to be adding to global funding efforts.

The vaccine news “makes us hopeful about a number of the other vaccine products in the pipeline,” he said. “But there’s still a long way to go between that and getting vaccines approved (by regulators), and then into people who need them at the scale and with the kind of equitable global distribution we really need to bring the virus under control.”

The Gates Foundation began pledging funds for the vaccines AMC in June, and the extra $50 million brings its total pledges to $156 million. The new funds will also unlock an extra 12.5 million pounds ($16.5 mln) from Britain, which had promised to part-match other contributions.

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