Countries Pledge 7.36 Billion Euros Towards Global COVID-19 Response – Nearly Reaching Goal
Ursula von Der Leyen, president of the European Commission, announced the EU pledge at the Coronavirus Global Response Pledging Event on 4 May

Countries from around the world committed 7.36 billion Euro for the global coronavirus pandemic response Monday, nearly reaching the ambitious 7.5 billion Euro initial goal that had been set out only a week ago in a press conference with heads of state from Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the World Health Organization. 

The United States, the world’s biggest global health donor and country with the most COVID-19 cases and deaths, was noticeably absent in this show of multilateralism, at the pledging event hosted by the European Commission. 

Leaders from most of the other G20 group of the world’s most industrialized countries made pledges, including China, whose permanent ambassador to the European Union announced a commitment of over USD $20 million to the global coronavirus response.

The European Commission kicked off the event with a 1 billion Euro pledge.

“Today, the world is coming together. Governments from every continent will join hands and team up with global health organizations, and other experienced partners. The pandemic is affecting every single country in the world. The goal is one; to defeat this virus,” said Ursula Von der Leyen, European Commission president.

But funding committed at the initial pledging event, which aimed to raise 7.5  billion Euros, is just the first “downpayment” for accelerating the development of new tools, said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. 

“To reach everyone everywhere, we likely need five times that amount, and we call on partners to join in this effort… to sustain our momentum,” he added.

Many country leaders explicitly designated that funding pledged would also go to the World Health Organization, which is facing a significant budget shortfall after US President Donald Trump announced a temporary suspension of its nearly US $ 500 million annually in funding, pending an investigation into the agency’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Erna Solberg announces Norway’s pledge, leading with renewed funding for the WHO

Norway, one of the co-hosts of the event, led the movement with an additional 50 million krone infusion into WHO’s coffers. 

“Norway supports the leadership of the World Health Organization. Without the WHO, an effective and coordinated response to the pandemic will not be possible,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said. “Cooperation is more important than ever.” 

The pledging event was co-led by the leaders of France, Germany, Japan, Norway, Canada, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia. The package of new grants, loans, and repurposed global health funding from bilateral donors, philanthropic foundations, and the European Investment Bank will be directed towards accelerating the development of COVID-19 tools, and support countries most vulnerable to the pandemic.

Accelerating Development of & Ensuring Access to COVID-19 Diagnostics, Drugs, & Vaccines

A majority of funding announced at the pledging event will fund various efforts to speed up the development of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. As of now, there are no approved drugs or vaccines for the virus.

“This is now a human endemic infection,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, which together with the Gates Foundation and Mastercard, is supporting the new COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, another funnel for funding pledged. “We will need all three; diagnostics, therapeutics, and a vaccine.”

In one of his first international appearances since recovering from a serious case of COVID-19, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson added, “ We must work together to build an impregnable shield around all our people – and that can only be achieved by developing and mass producing a vaccine.”

Boris Johnson announces the UK pledge

The UK has committed up to  £744 million to the global COVID-19 response, of which at least £388 million will be directed towards research and development of COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines. 

A large portion of all country pledges were also directed towards the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI), which is supporting nine COVID-19 vaccine development initiatives. In a commitment to ensuring access to any COVID-19 tools, many countries also announced initial pledges to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the public-private partnership that supports low-income countries’ national vaccine delivery programmes. The UK is hosting Gavi’s sixth replenishment on 4 June. 

Pharma industry and civil society representatives joined in to support the pledging event, and leaders of both have underlined that ensuring access to any new tools is an essential priority, echoing calls from country leaders that a COVID-19 vaccine should be treated as a ‘global public good.’

“Never before has the biopharmaceutical industry moved as quickly and decisively to channel our innovation and mobilize our knowhow in response to this pandemic. We are driven by a deep sense of responsibility towards patients and society as a whole,” said Dave Ricks, chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and chairman of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).

“Global demand will outstrip production and supply capacity for some essential medical tools, including personal protective equipment and COVID-19 therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines. Ensuring the equitable allocation of these tools should therefore be central to any discussions around financing and access,” representatives of Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) wrote in a public comment released on Monday.