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WHO, partners seek $23.4 billion for new COVID-19 war chest

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By Reuters
WHO, partners seek $23.4 billion for new COVID-19 war chest
WHO, partners seek $23.4 billion for new COVID-19 war chest   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021   -  

<div> <p>By Stephanie Nebehay</p> <p><span class="caps">GENEVA</span> – The World Health Organization (<span class="caps">WHO</span>) and other aid groups on Thursday issued a $23.4 billion plan to bring <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 vaccines, tests and drugs to poorer countries in the next year, appealing to leaders of the G20 who are meeting this weekend for funding.</p> <p>The ambitious plan outlines the strategy of the Access to <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 Tools Accelerator (<span class="caps">ACT</span>-A) until September 2022, expected to include use of an experimental oral antiviral pill made by Merck & Co for treating mild and moderate cases. </p> <p>If the pill is approved by regulatory authorities, the cost could be as little as $10 per course, the plan said, in line with a draft document nL1N2RF1BE seen by Reuters earlier this month.</p> <p>“The request is for $23.4 billion. That’s a fair amount of money, but if you compare with the damage also done to global economy by the pandemic it is not really that much,” Carl Bildt, <span class="caps">WHO</span> Special Envoy to the <span class="caps">ACT</span>-Accelerator, told a pre-briefing for selected journalists ahead of a press conference by <span class="caps">WHO</span> Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.</p> <p>Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden, acknowledged that the <span class="caps">ACT</span>-A has struggled to secure previous financing and noted that Norway and South Africa co-chair a fund-raising effort.</p> <p>“So we do expect a strong signal from (the G20) coming out of the meeting in Rome over the weekend,” he said.</p> <p>Equal budgets of $7 billion are earmarked for both vaccines and diagnostic tests, with a further $5.9 billion for boosting health systems and $3.5 billion for treatments including antivirals, corticosteroids, and medical oxygen.</p> <p><span class="caps">COVAX</span>, the vaccines arm of the <span class="caps">ACT</span>-A, has delivered some 400 million <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 doses to more than 140 low- and middle-income countries, where vaccination rates remain low, <span class="caps">WHO</span> chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.</p> <p>“We know there are about 30 countries that are dependent on <span class="caps">COVAX</span> alone, they have no other source of vaccines,” she said.</p> <p>About 82 countries are likely to miss a <span class="caps">WHO</span> global target of 40% vaccination coverage by year-end, but some of them could if supplies start flowing, she said.</p> <p>Referring to India which resumed “relatively modest” <span class="caps">COVID</span>-19 vaccine exports this month after suspending them in April due to its domestic epidemic, Swaminathan said: “I think these volumes coming out of India will go up significantly.”</p> <p>She added: “One of the things that is now interfering in a big way is the need for boosters, more and more high income countries are going in for the booster doses and this is now sucking up the vaccine doses as well.” </p> <p/> </div>