New types of loans and bonds could close $ 28 billion COVID funding gap: WHO
GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Health Organization is studying new financial instruments to help close a $ 28 billion funding gap for tools to fight COVID-19, a senior official said on Tuesday.
The WHO and GAVI vaccine alliance aims to provide poor and middle-income countries with diagnostic tests, drugs and vaccines through a fund known as the Access Accelerator. COVID-19 (ACT) tools, implemented last April.
Bruce Aylward, senior WHO adviser and its ACT coordinator, said new financing mechanisms – including concessional loans and catastrophe bonds – had been discussed at an ACT facilitation board meeting on Monday, co-chaired by Norway and South Africa.
“Right now, funding is what separates us from coming out of this pandemic as quickly as possible,” he said at a UN briefing in Geneva.
“It’s a real challenge in today’s tax environment despite being the best deal in town,” said Aylward, referring to the ACT Accelerator facility. “It will pay for itself in 36 hours once we resume our trade and travel.”
Aylward said WHO and its partners are looking to build a diverse portfolio of vaccines to meet its goal of delivering 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
“We have to make sure that we hedge our bets,” he said.
The agencies are in talks with Pfizer and Moderna to include their COVID-19 vaccines as part of an early global rollout “at prices appropriate to the populations we are trying to serve,” he said.
Aylward said he sees a “strong commitment” from Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to set prices at the right level for global use. Aylward expects news of other manufacturers joining the COVAX vaccine facility’s supplier list in the coming weeks, he said.
If the vaccines that have been developed by China or Russia meet international standards for efficacy and safety, they will be considered for inclusion, he said.
Canada has pledged to spend C $ 485 million ($ 380 million) to support COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, including antibody treatments, said Monday the Minister of International Aid, Karina Gould.
Aylward said the gaps were most acute in delivering COVID therapeutics to patients in developing countries, especially newer drugs such as monoclonal antibodies, “one of the most promising areas” but still expensive.
As clinical trials continue, WHO and its partners plan to expand manufacturing capacity to produce large-scale monoclonal antibodies for low-income countries and have the funding to provide them, has t -he adds.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge, editing by Jane Merriman and Angus MacSwan