“As long as the virus is somewhere, it’s everywhere,” Melinda Gates emphasized at a global teleconference where world leaders spoke about the need for cooperation.
The EU led an effort to raise money for vaccine research and development for COVID-19. With contributions from governments, philanthropists, and private businesses, the fund collected $8.2 billion.
Countries such as the UK, Germany, Canada, France, Japan, Italy, Norway, and Saudi Arabia all chipped in. The EU and Norway each donated $1.1 billion. Charitable organizations contributed too, for example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation added $100 million.
However, major world powers such as the US and Russia were absent, and China made zero financial contribution despite having its EU ambassador in attendance.
What are the goals of the fund?
The goal is to cooperate and provide worldwide, affordable access to resources against COVID-19. Members in the conference believe that by collaborating, we can create solutions that are available to all countries, not just the wealthiest or those who produce it first.
The fund will support promising research into COVID-19 vaccine, the development of diagnostic testing supplies, and the mass-production of medication. Finding treatment quicker will prevent further damage. With an increased supply of test kits around the world, the public will be able to detect and limit the spread of the virus more easily. Finally, leaders hope that scientists will be able to create medicines in large quantities so that everyone can receive treatment.
Leaders in vaccine development
Vaccines take a long time to develop because they must undergo many stages of testing before they are considered safe for the public.
Clinical trials in humans go through multiple phases. In Phase I trials, scientists observe the safety of the treatment in a small group of healthy volunteers. Phase II tests the effectiveness in a few hundred individuals in outbreak areas. Phase III expands the research to thousands of people, and if the data looks good, the FDA approves the vaccine.
Because of the current pandemic, scientists have been racing to develop and test potential vaccines in a shortened time. The frontrunners include Moderna, Oxford, and CanSino Biologics, all in Phase II.
Moderna’s vaccine is made of messenger RNA, which carries genetic instructions for making proteins. The mRNA enables cells to produce a small part of the spike protein that SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) uses to infect tissue -- the hope is that the body will learn to identify and fight the virus early on. Meanwhile, Oxford researchers have genetically altered a harmless virus to look similar to SARS-CoV-2 so that the body teaches itself an immune response without causing the disease. The treatment from CanSino Biologics has a similar approach to Oxford.
By joining forces and pledging support, world leaders and organizations demonstrated their belief that it will take an international scientific effort to tackle the pandemic and keep everyone safe.
Sources: NYTimes, NPR, Washington Post, Wire, TheScientist, nih.gov, ec.europa.eu