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COVID-19: EU to support poor countries with $478m vaccine

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THE European Commission says it will provide $478 million in guarantees to purchase COVID-19 vaccine from a World Health Organisation (WHO) led initiative.

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Gheybreyesus disclosed this during a news conference in Geneva today, saying that Germany has joined the COVAX facility.

“We are negotiating with the rest of EU members. One possibility we are checking is for the EU members to join as a bloc. I think the best way to end this pandemic is through solidarity, through cooperation, through oneness.” Gheybreyesus said.

The European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, said, ”Today, the Commission is announcing a 400 million euro contribution to COVAX for working together in purchasing future vaccines to the benefit of low and middle-income countries.”

The EU Commission is currently negotiating advance purchases of COVID-19 vaccines with several drug-makers on behalf of the 27 EU states and has previously said that the EU countries cannot buy vaccines through parallel procurement schemes.

Although the global health body said that Germany had joined the pact, the UN health agency was still negotiating with the bloc.

The primary objective of COVAX initiative is to purchase for all countries in the world 2 billion doses of potential COVID-19 shots from several vaccine developers by the end of next year.

According to the European Commission, the financial support will be provided through guarantees, although it was not clarified how these guarantees would be offered and why they were preferred to direct funding in cash.

 ”The detailed terms and conditions for the EU’s participation and contribution will be worked out in the coming backs and weeks.” The Commission added in a statement that it was ready, together with EU states, “To put expertise and resources at work within COVAX to accelerate and scale-up development and manufacturing of global supply of vaccines for citizens across the world, in poor and rich countries.” The Commission said.

Critics have however pointed out that the Commission was effectively undermining the WHO-led initiative by having exclusive access to the vaccines through an EU scheme. The commission said that it was committed to donating to developing countries some of the vaccines it buys through its procurement.

It can be recalled that the United States, Japan, Britain and the EU have all agreed on deals to secure millions of COVID-19 vaccine for their citizens despite the WHO’s warning that vaccine nationalism will negatively impact on supplies of such vaccines.

Report also has it that American Biotechnology firm, Moderna Inc last week announced that it has concluded advanced talks with the European Union to supply 80 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273.

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