Sat, 11 Jul 2020

A staff member tests samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at a vaccine production plant of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in Beijing, capital of China, April 11, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei)

The summit drew pledges of 8.8 billion U.S. dollars from governments and organizations, far more than its target of 7.4 billion dollars.

LONDON, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Countries and organizations on Thursday pledged their support for vaccinations to save millions of lives in the poorest countries during a virtual global vaccine summit hosted by Britain.

The summit, to raise funds for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) to ensure vaccine accessibility worldwide, drew pledges of 8.8 billion U.S. dollars from governments and organizations, far more than its target of 7.4 billion dollars.

The funds will not only protect children from deadly diseases like polio, diphtheria and measles and save up to 8 million lives, but also be directed to accelerating research, development, production and distribution of a vaccine for COVID-19.

Speaking at the summit attended by leaders from over 30 countries and heads of international organizations, including the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that China will continue to support the core role of the WHO in coordinating vaccine research, while making its contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech at a virtual global vaccine summit on June 4, 2020. (Xinhua/Ding Haitao)

In dealing with the COVID-19 infection, China has put people's lives first, effectively containing the epidemic by making arduous efforts, Li said.

However, the pandemic is not over, said Li, adding that no country is immune from the virus, and that the health and safety of the various populations are closely connected.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that "diseases know no borders. That is why a fully-funded GAVI will be critical to ensure we continue the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals."

"COVID-19 is the greatest public health crisis of our generation. Right now, there is no vaccine. As we work together to develop one, there is an important lesson we need to understand. A vaccine, by itself, is not enough. We need global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access," said Guterres.

"A vaccine will be essential for controlling COVID-19. But vaccines only realize their true power when they are deployed to protect the poorest and the most vulnerable," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who opened the summit, urged countries and organizations to "join us to fortify this lifesaving alliance and inaugurate a new era of global health cooperation, which I believe is now the most essential shared endeavour of our lifetimes."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers a speech to the virtual Global Vaccine Summit at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, on June 4, 2020. (Andrew Parsons/No 10 Downing Street/Handout via Xinhua)

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said the European Union has been at the GAVI's side since the very beginning in 2000, and the GAVI "has brought life-saving vaccines to millions of families that could not afford them."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said "GAVI is not just a global alliance, it is also a symbol of global solidarity and a reminder that by helping others, we can also help ourselves ... India values the work of GAVI."

"We're meeting at a unique time in history. Never have more people been more aware of the importance of vaccines. As we race to develop the COVID-19 vaccine, we must also renew our commitment to delivering every life-saving vaccine there is to every child on Earth," said Bill Gates, co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Also on Thursday, the GAVI launched the GAVI Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines (GAVI Covax AMC), a new financing instrument aimed at incentivizing vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of eventual COVID-19 vaccines, and to ensure access for developing countries.

"Today's launch moves us one step closer to the essential vision of equitable access for all," said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, chair of the GAVI Board.

"By de-risking the cost of investing in high volumes of manufacturing against an unknown outcome -- and making sure those investments are made now -- the GAVI Covax AMC increases the likelihood that when we have a successful vaccine or vaccines, it will be available in sufficient quantities and affordable to developing countries," she said. ■

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