A summit hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson today is expected to set a goal of at least $7.4 billion. The funds will go to global vaccine alliance Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which is backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. The Gates Foundation is a founding partner of Gavi, which was founded in 1999, and pledged $750 million to establish it.
In addition to backing from the Gates Foundation, Gavi is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and UNICEF.
According to the WHO, there are at least 133 possible COVID-19 vaccines in development globally. Gavi would assist in global distribution if an effective vaccine is developed.
The funds are also expected to be used to help recovery from the pandemic. GAVI also indicated it is launching an Advance Market Commitment (AMC) for future COVID-19 vaccines to ensure that new vaccines are allocated to poorer countries. The AMC would offer incentives to vaccine makers to invest in large-scale manufacturing capacity even while they’re developing new products and before full-scale trials demonstrate efficacy and safety, GAVI’s chief executive officer Seth Berkley told Reuters.
“GAVI is worried about the low- and middle-income countries,” Berkley said. “The worry we have is that unless we scale up production dramatically right now, and do that at risk, when the vaccines are available, they could be bought up by wealthy countries. We’re trying to put together a facility that has global scope and that will work with manufacturers and help them scale up by saying to them: ‘If you have a successful vaccine, we will buy it.’”
Currently, the companies that are the furthest along in a COVID-19 vaccine are AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, Moderna and the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Pfizer and BioNTech, CanSino Biologics, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Sanofi.
The $7.4 billion raised would fund Gavi’s immunization programs between 2021 and 2025, which would help immunize 300 million children and potentially save 7 to 8 million lives.
The WHO, UNICEF, which is the U.N. children’s charity, and Gavi, have expressed concerns that the pandemic is disrupting routine vaccines globally, affecting about 80 million children less than a year old in 68 countries.
Gavi vaccinates about half of the children around the world, sharing the costs of immunizations against various diseases such as measles and polio with developing countries. In addition to vaccinations, Gavi helps countries create infrastructure like better supply chains and trains health care workers. Studies have found that for every $1 invested in Gavi immunizations, there is a $21 return in savings from health care costs, lost wages and lost productivity from illness and death.
Pre-announced pledges have already hit 75% of the summit’s goal, with the UK promising $1.65 billion over five years, the U.S. agreeing to $1.2 billion over three years, Norway $1 billion and Japan $100 million.