Global Agencies Call for $50 Billion Fund to End Pandemic

The International Monetary Fund and World Health Organization say the coronavirus pandemic can be brought to an end with an infusion of $50 billion to pay for the distribution of vaccines, supplies and medicines around the world.

A policeman rides a horse while wearing a virus-themed helmet during a Covid-19 awareness drive in Hyderabad, India, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

(CN) — With deaths and infections from the novel coronavirus declining globally, the World Health Organization and International Monetary Fund on Tuesday said the pandemic can be brought to an end with an investment of $50 billion to pay for the worldwide distribution of vaccines, medicines and supplies.

In a call to action, the WHO, World Bank and World Trade Organization backed an analysis put forward by the IMF that projects the pandemic can be ended with a $50 billion investment from richer nations.

“The $50 billion price tag is dwarfed by the estimated $9 trillion to be gained by the increase in economic activity by 2025, making it the best public investment ever,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF managing director, during a news briefing with other agency leaders.

The novel coronavirus continues to rampage in many parts of the world, most tragically in Asia and South America, but deaths and new infections are on a downward trend and the WHO said vaccines are showing the virus can be stopped.

The United Kingdom provided solid proof of that on Tuesday when it reported for the first time since the pandemic hit no new deaths linked to Covid-19. The U.K. has one of the highest rates of vaccination in the world with about 58% of its population having received at least one vaccine dose, according to figures tracked by Our World In Data.

“Through public health measures and vaccines, we have the means to end this pandemic quickly and save countless lives and livelihoods,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general. “But we need the will to make it happen.”

The call for $50 billion comes ahead of a June 11-13 summit of the Group of 7 nations in Cornwall, England. The G7 nations include many of the world’s biggest economies.

Georgieva said the funds are urgently needed to prevent parts of the world where vaccination rates are low from falling further behind.

“We are deeply concerned because an increasingly two-track pandemic is causing a two-track economic recovery with negative consequences for all countries,” she said. “Vaccine policy is economic policy.”

The IMF’s analysis is based on up to 40% of the world’s population getting vaccinated by the end of the year and 60% by the first half of 2022.

A health care worker prepares a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine in Caracas, Venezuela, last week. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, file)

To achieve that, vaccine production will need to ramp up significantly, but the institutions said the world has the capacity to do it. Richer countries with abundant vaccine supplies are also being asked to donate more of their stockpiles. The United States has pledged to share 80 million doses and the European Union more than 100 million doses, but more donations are needed, WHO officials said.

The WHO’s goal to distribute vaccines in every part of the world was boosted by its decision on Tuesday to approve a second Chinese vaccine for emergency use. The United Nations health agency said the vaccine made by Beijing-based Sinovac was found to be effective and safe by an expert advisory panel. This was the eighth vaccine approved by the WHO.

The WHO said the Sinovac product is based on a technique using an inactivated vaccine which makes it easy to store and distribute in poorer countries.

The WHO expert panel found the vaccine to be less effective at preventing milder cases of Covid-19 but that it prevented severe Covid-19 and hospitalization in 100% of the studied population, though that consisted mostly of younger people. The WHO said it could not rate its efficacy for older people but that “data suggest the vaccine is likely to have a protective effect in older persons.”

Despite positive trends showing a slowing of the pandemic, WHO officials warned the crisis is far from over.

In the past week, 76,977 new deaths were reported, a steady decline from the latest peak at the end of April when the world recorded about 93,820 deaths in a single week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The virus has been linked to about 3.5 million deaths worldwide, though that official number is far below what experts believe is the actual death toll. The WHO recently estimated that between 6 million and 8 million people have likely died directly and indirectly from the pandemic.

Tedros though sounded a hopeful note on Tuesday, saying that if world leaders back the IMF plan the pandemic can be brought to an end.

“We have the public health measures at hand, which have been working in many countries, and now we have the added tool, vaccine, at hand,” Tedros said. “If we do both, we can end this pandemic quickly and free this world from this dreadful virus.”

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

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