G-20 urged to fill US$4.5b gap in global Covid-19 vaccine fund

RIYADH (AFP) – G-20 nations must help plug a US$4.5 billion (S$6.05 billion) funding gap for a WHO-led programme to distribute coronavirus vaccines and pave the way for an end to the pandemic, a letter seen by AFP on Friday (Nov 20) said.

The letter, sent ahead of this weekend’s virtual G-20 summit, was signed by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.

“A commitment by G-20 leaders at the G-20 Summit in Riyadh to invest substantially in the ACT-Accelerator’s immediate funding gap of US$4.5 billion will immediately save lives, lay the groundwork for mass procurement and delivery of Covid-19 tools around the world, and provide an exit strategy out of this global economic and human crisis,” the letter dated Nov 16 said.

“With this funding, and a joint commitment to spend a proportion of future stimulus on the Covid-19 tools needed globally, the G-20 will build a foundation to end the pandemic,” added the letter addressed to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the current G-20 president.

ACT-Accelerator is an initiative led by the WHO that promotes an equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments globally.

There was no immediate comment from G-20 organisers in Riyadh.

Major pharmaceutical companies are now closing in on vaccines against the virus, amid a global spike in cases that has caused some countries to reimpose restrictions to curb transmission.

“The recent breakthroughs on Covid-19 vaccines offer a ray of hope” but they must “reach everyone”, UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Friday.

“Over the past seven months, countries have invested $10 billion in the effort to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. But US$28 billion more is needed – including US$4.2 billion before the end of the year,” he added.

In September, the United Nations estimated that the ACT-Accelerator had received only some US$3 billion of the US$38 billion needed to meet the goal of producing and delivering two billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments and 500 million diagnostic tests over the next year.

International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva warned on Thursday that the global economy faces a hard road back from the Covid-19 downturn even as a medical solution to the crisis is now in sight.

The Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 55 million people and caused more than 1.3 million deaths worldwide, according to an AFP tally, and wreaked a grievous toll on the global economy.

The IMF expects the world economy to contract by 4.4 per cent this year.

“The lack of an adequately financed global exit strategy is an existential threat to the economic and health security of all countries and their citizens,” said the letter to the G-20 president.

“Only by tackling the pandemic globally, will economic vitality be restored and a catastrophe be averted.”

Sign up for our daily updates here and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Get The Straits Times app and receive breaking news alerts and more. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now.