Over US$30b Needed To Develop COVID-19 Tests, Treatments, Vaccines — WHO

    (AFP) — The World Health Organization said Friday that a global initiative to speed up the development and production of COVID-19 tests, vaccines and treatments will require more than US$30 billion over the next year.

    Providing details of the so-called ACT accelerator, launched in April and aimed at pooling international resources to conquer the pandemic, WHO said “the costed plans presented today call for US$31.3 billion in funding.”

    So far, US$3.4 billion of that had been pledged, it said, pointing out that an additional US$27.9 billion was needed over the next 12 months, including nearly US$14 billion to cover immediate needs.

    The announcement came ahead of a major pledging event in Brussels in support of the ACT accelerator, set to take place on Saturday.

    “This is an investment worth making,” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a special envoy for the ACT accelerator, told a virtual briefing.

    “If we don’t rally now, the human costs and the economic pain will deepen,” she said.

    “Though these numbers sound big, they are not when we think of the alternative. If we spend billions now, we will be able to avoid spending trillions later.

    “The time to act is now, and the way to act is together.”

    Okonjo-Iweala’s comments came as the world counts nearly 490,000 deaths from COVID-19 and over 9.6 million cases since the new coronavirus emerged in China late last year, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

    The funds requested should make it possible to deliver 500 million tests and 245 million courses of treatment to low and middle-income countries by mid-2021.

    They also aim to deliver two billion vaccine doses by the end of next year, of which half will go to low and middle-income nations.

    “It’s clear that to bring COVID-19 under control, and to save lives, we need effective vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, in unprecedented quantities and at unprecedented speed,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the briefing.

    Separate teams are racing to roll out reliable tests, find safe and effective vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus, and prepare for large-scale manufacturing.

    Tedros meanwhile stressed that a core principle of the initiative is to ensure equal access for all.

    “Vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics are vital tools,” he said.

    “But to be truly effective they must be administered with another essential ingredient, which is solidarity.”