Coronavirus: London hosts global leaders at $7.4bn Gavi vaccine conference

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Global leaders aim to raise $7.4 billion (Dh27bn) in extra funds at a pledging conference organised by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on Thursday.

The Global Vaccine Summit, held in London, hopes to secure funding to expand the world’s immunisation programmes at a time of heightened attention to public health during the coronavirus outbreak.

The summit will be attended virtually by private and public sector representatives from more than 50 countries, including heads of government from the G7 and G20.

The British embassy in Abu Dhabi on Thursday said Reem Al Hashimy, the UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, would represent the country in the virtual meeting.

Dr Tedros Adhanom, director-general of the WHO, as well as Bill Gates, co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are to address the conference hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson has called on Gavi partners to fully fund the body up to 2025. "I urge you to join us to fortify this lifesaving alliance and inaugurate a new era of global health co-operation, which I believe is now the most essential shared endeavour of our lifetimes," he said.

Mr Gates, the Microsoft founder, is the second largest funder of Gavi and said vaccines are more important than ever. "We're both raising the normal Gavi budget and we're starting an effort to raise a specific fund to buy the coronavirus vaccine for the poorest countries," he told the BBC on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters before the conference, the British minister for the Middle East, James Cleverly, said the money raised would help save eight million lives over the next five years, vaccinating children against diseases such as measles, typhoid and polio.

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Private sector corporations and individual philanthropists have already pledged more than $70m to support Gavi’s efforts.

“We are now calling on other governments to step up. Gavi's goal is more important than ever as we deal with coronavirus but at the same time we must not stop the battle and routine immunisation against other diseases,” Mr Cleverly said.

“Further disease outbreaks and epidemics would lead to needless child deaths and place additional strain on health systems already weakened by coronavirus. Gavi's work is also critical in fighting coronavirus itself.”

The UK minister explained that the Vaccine Alliance was in the process of ensuring a Covid-19 vaccine would become available around the globe to those who needed it.

“Gavi is already working hard with partners to ensure that any future vaccine that is safe and effective is delivered at scale around the world,” he explained.

Participants in the London summit from the Middle East and from the GCC in particular are expected to show strong support for the meeting.

“We are grateful for the immense work by Gulf leaders to combat coronavirus, making generous bilateral pledges and responding to global appeals including to support vaccine development as well as humanitarian assistance,” Mr Cleverly said.

The Conservative politician praised the collaboration between the UK and the Middle East on the Covid-19 crisis, highlighting the £30m (Dh139m) support pledged by Britain to programmes across the region to stop the spread of the disease.

“The UK's long-standing partnership and bilateral relations with the Middle East continues to endure and no one can respond to this shared challenge of a generation alone,” Mr Cleverly said.

The Gavi chief executive, Seth Berkley, lauded the commitments of public-sector partners such as MasterCard and Unilever to the conference.

“Gavi is the consummate example of how public-private partnerships play a substantial role in saving lives and putting whole societies on trajectories of progress and prosperity," he said, and added that contributions would help “pioneer some transformational changes in immunisation systems”.

Updated: June 4, 2020 12:39 PM

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